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.Digitized by VjOOQIC 






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by Google ' 

Second Thoughts. 




* GOOD-BYE, sweetheart!' * RED AS A ROSE IS SHE,' 


VOL. I. 

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VOL. I. 


ad by Google 


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I ^HERE is no truer proverb than 
-^ the one that tells us that *A 
watched pot never boils ;' and yet, 
though they have all been watching, 
with their eyes upon the dial-plate, for the 
clock to strike midnight, it has struck at 
last. Instantly there is a rising, a rustling, 
a cheerful moving. Through the door of 
communication they pass — men, women, 
and children — from the sleepy, warm arm- 

I — 2 

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Second Thoughts, 

chairs of the drawing-room into the chill 
semi-obscurity of the unfurnished, echoing 
gallery, which for the last twenty years 
has served for the romp-place, dance-place, 
wet-day-place, litter-place of the Marlowe 
family. Along the floor, upon the bare 
boards, each parted from the other by an 
.inj^rval. qf. .a]x)ut a yard, stand twelve 
bedroom* ckhdres, which a stooping foot- 
."liisiii'is.iriitiiet ict 6i lighting. Over these 
twelve consecutive candles the Squire ; his 
two half-grown daughters, Jane and Emilia ; 
his ungrown son, little Dick ; his full-grown 
niece, the mistress of his widowed house- 
hold, GilliaaXatimer, and all his guests in 
order due, are about to leap. Over twelve 
such candles the young Marlowes, ever 
since their little legs have put on the 
functions of such, have been yearly wont 
to jump as soon as the strike of clock, the 
ring of bell, the voice of Christmas wait, 
have told them that the moment has come 


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First Thoughts. 

for discovering by this simplest form of 
divination the fortunes of the coming year. 

* If you clear them all/ cries Jane, in a 
high bustling voice of excited explanation 
to an alien young man — Jane, whose own 
length of adolescent leg fits her for a nobler 
stride — * if you clear them all, you will be 
lucky all the year ; if you put out any one, 
you will be unlucky in that month of the 
year to which it corresponds : if you put 
out the first, you will be unlucky in January, 
the second in February, and so on/ 

* And though,* says Gillian, gaily, wrap- 
ping the while, with house-motherly pre- 
caution, a woolly shawl round the shoulders 
of Emilia, who has sneezed — * and though 
the event has never once fulfilled the 
prediction, our faith remains absolutely 

* And if you put them all out ?' says the 
young man in a melancholy voice, eying the 
candle-flames with an absent, poet's eye. 


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Second Thoughts, 

He is a long, fragile young man, slender 
as any reed, and with legs even more 
spidery than Jane's, though, unlike hers, 
they give no idea less than that of jump- 
ing. If you were a good motherly soul, 
with healthy red and white boys of your 
own, you would probably say, * Poor 
fellow ! how thin he is ! I should like to 
feed him up !' But you had better not let 
him hear the wish. What would a young 
gentleman, gnawed upon by the Welt 
Schmerz, a vowed votary of Our Lady of 
Pain, do with gross flesh and unaesthetic 
fibre 'i Far, far liever would he be lying 
in his narrow poet grave, with the Sea- 
mews screeching above him, and the 
Bitter Bright Sea Mother singing him 
an amorous salt lullaby, as in several of 
his minor poems he has already affectingly 
described himself. 

' And if you put them all out T says the 
young man. 


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First Thoughts. 

' That is a catastrophe that we have 
never faced even in fancy/ replies Gillian, 

* You could not do it if you tried/ says 
Jane, loudly and bluntly. 

And now the candles are all lit : twelve 
bright fire-needles, pointing upwards from 
their lowly place. The rite is beginning. 
The Squire's brother, a celibate Anglican 
priest, or unmarried Protestant clergyman, 
as he would have been called twenty years 
ago, leads the way. Black-buttoned to his 
shorn chin, monastically petticoated to his 
heels, in twelve decorous leaps he attains 
the goal, and there awaits the plunging 
laity as they successively arrive. The 
first to reach his side is little Dick, light as 
thistledown, quick as light ; then Emilia ; 
then long-legged Jane ; then a whole 
family of country neighbours : General 
Tarlton, Mrs. Tarlton, the two Misses 
Tarlton. Mrs. Tarlton is a stout lady, 


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8 Second Thoughts. 

scant of breath and very much afraid of 
fire, so that it is a work of time and diffi- 
culty to kilt her sufficiently high for her 
fiery voyage. Even at the last moment 
one bit of unaccounted-for drapery still 
droops, but her husband is the only person 
who perceives it, and he cannot tell her of 
it for the excellent reason that they are not 
on speaking terms to-night. Indeed, it is 
not often that they are. However, floun- 
dering and panting, she too attains. So 
does the General. So do the two girls, 
Sophia and Anne. In their soft, snowy 
frocks, and with their timid gait, they look 
like two harmless, fluttering doves. But 
even doves have their little differences of 
opinion, as anyone who has kept a wedded 
pair of them in a wicker cage can safely 

' Do you see Anne ?* says the elder 
dove, in wrathy aside to Gillian, apropos of 
her sister ; * she is asking Brother Marlowe 


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First Thoughts. 

to button her glove, and you know that 
none of the Bagley Brothers like even 
shaking hands with a woman more than 
they can help ; they have all taken the 
vows of poverty and celibacy, and — and — 
all that sort of thing. It is putting him in 
such a false position. Some one ought to 
speak to her.* 

Now it is the host's turn, and now the 
poets. Coming after the broad, ruddy 
Squire, he looks like a faint exhalation 
that noiselessly rises in the wake of the 
set sun. With his long fine hair waving 
behind him in the wind of his going, and a 
sad small smile on his parted lips, he floats 
over the candles like a lawny mist across 
the moon. 

' Bravo, Chaloner F cries the Squire, 
bringing his vigorous right hand heartily 
down on the young man's shoulder, as he 
lands beside him. ' We are all in luck to- 
night. I congratulate you ; you will have 


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lo Second Thoughts. 

never an ache or a pain from January ist 
to December 31st.* 

' Oh, pray do not say so !' replies 
Chaloner, wincing a little, and shrinking 
away from the robust caress ; * do not 
prophesy me anything so terrible ; surely 
there is nothing so beautiful as the pas- 
sionate pulsations of pain !' 

* Is not there ?' says the other, drily. 
*A11 right! there is no accounting for 
tastes : since you like it, I will wish you to 
have a colic every day of the week, and a 
fit of the gout on Sundays.' 

And now all have prosperously crossed — 
apparently it is very easy to be lucky — all 
save Gillian. Her year's fate alone still 
hangs in the balance. She alone still stands 
on the hither side of the prophetic lights. 
But surely for her there can be no danger. 
To that vigorous light body, to those long 
young limbs, a far greater obstacle would 
oppose itself in vain. On every previous 


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First Thoughts. ii 

year, she has been over almost before you 
could say that she had set off; darting 
across with a swift sure flight like a 
swallow's. They all cry to her, * Come 
along!' and * Make haste T but still she 
lingers. With her gown upgathered over 
one long arm, and her straight light body 
bent a little forward, like Atalanta in act 
to run, she stands hesitating. It cannot be 
that she is afraid of fire, for her dress is a 
heavy velvet one that would be more likely 
to extinguish flame than kindle it. Why 
then does she delay ? She is off at last. 
But what has happened to lithe Gillian ? At 
her first jump, swish ! one candle is blown 
black out ; a second ; a third. Then at 
last, with desperate hand upsnatching the 
weighty Genoa tail which has wrought her 
ruin, she springs lightly and happily over 
the remaining nine. But .what does that 
avail "i Three baleful wicks stand smoking 
behind her. They all crowd round her, 


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12 Second Thoughts. 

wondering, asking, pitying : the Squire, 
the giris, the boys, the Taritons, even 
Brother Marlowe. Dick begins to cry ; 
partly from the weary peevishness that the 
joy and glory of hearing the chimes at 
midnight mostly engenders in a mind and 
body of six years ; partly from unaffected 
woe. The poet alone expresses no sur- 
prise, offers no sympathy. He seems, 
indeed, quite unweeting of the little vulgar 
bustle around him. Sadly posed against a 
projection of the wall he stands, a Nocturne 
in black and white. 

* Three running !' says Emilia, in an 
aghast semi-whisper, * three running !* 

*You had better take my advice next 
time, Gill,* cries Jane, in a voice of lugu- 
brious superiority. ' I warned you that 
you were not holding your gown nearly 
high enough !' 

* January, February,. March ! my misfor- 
tunes will be the sooner over,' says Gillian, 


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First Thoughts. 13 

lightly. She has picked up Dick, and is 
holding him against her breast ; his afflicted 
face burrowing in the warm satin of her 
neck, while she pats his back like a puling 
infant s, slowly and rhythmically, with con- 
soling practised hand — *the sooner over! 
and you know that our candles have never 
in their lives spoken truth, so why should 
they begin now ?' 

But all the same, she would rather not 
have blown them out. 


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* A N orphan ? am I an orphan ?' says 
-^^- Gillian, in a doubtful voice, in an- 
swer to a question that has been addressed 
to her, laying down her pen. * What is an 
orphan ? I am never quite clear ; must 
one have lost everybody, or will one do ? 
and how long does it last ? Will one still 
be an orphan at seventy ? Certainly, I 
have no mother.* 

It is the next morning. Outside there 
is a white flurry of falling snow, and an 
angry wind that is lashing it with its icy 
whip. Inside there is still and even 


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First Thoughts. 15 

warmth, and the perfume of fortunate 
flowers that have not fallen asleep on 
Earth's great cold mother-breast to the 
numb lullaby of the snow-blast, like their 
sisters out of doors. Gillian is seated at a 
writing-table ; but before her lies no 
cream-laid paper, no monogrammed enve- 
lopes speaking of the frivolities of a lady- 
like correspondence. No ; up-piled before 
her lies a good honest heap of account- 
books. The butcher, the baker, the 
candlestick-maker, each waiting in order 
due to tell her his simple tale. But now 
her pen was travelling conscientiously up 
the butchers column, slowly journeying 
from rib to loin, from fillet to leg ; and it 
is only with a sigh of meek desperation 
that this moment she has laid it down. 
For, in order to tussle with pounds, shil- 
lings, and pence, especially pence ; satis- 
factorily to add ninepence-halfpenny to 
elevenpence three farthings, and be sure 


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1 6 Second Thoughts. 

that they come right, one must be alone. 
And Gillian is not alone. If it were one of 
the habituds of the house who thus intruded 
upon a solitude looked upon as sacred by 
the whole household every Monday morn- 
ing, she would say to him plainly, * Go, you 
are in my way I I wish to be rid of you \ 

But her acquaintance with the poet is of 
far too slight and formal a character to 
render such a friendly liberty possible. So 
she lays down her pen, and tries to keep 
out of the pleasant, civil face she turns 
towards him her sincere desire for his 
absence. He is far from suspecting her 
unholy wish, as he lies back in a low chair 
by the fire, leaning his Botticelli head — 
which he always feels a grudge against 
nature for not having provided with a per- 
manent nimbus of dead gold — against the 
cushion, twanging a little zither, and sigh- 

' I too am an orphan/ he says softly. 


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First Thoughts. 17 

* Many of our sweetest and swiftest have 
been orphans. I would not have it other- 

* For once we agree !' cries Gillian, mer- 
rily, accenting the once as if this did not 
often occur. * But then, mine is an orphan- 
hood a part ; there is no one who would 
not like to be such an orphan as I am. All ; 
the liberty of an unprotected woman, and 
all the love of a protected one ! What 
could one wish for better ?^* 

She has closed the butcher's book, and 
is resting her folded arms resignedly upon 
its red back ; while her clear eyes look 
without ill-humour at the destroyer of her 

* I am Uncle Henry's child,* she goes on ,^ 
presently ; * but,' with a pretty headstrong 
smile, - * I am his master, too ! I think 
they all like me,' — with a glance at him, 
appealing for confirmation of this state- 
ment, but he does not see it. ' I could not 
VOL. I. 2 

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i8 Second Thoughts, 

bear to live with a houseful of people who 
did not like me ; but all the same/ breaking 
into a laugh of content, 'they tremble at 
my nod.' 

Chaloner does not laugh too. He never 
does. Life never turns the comic side of 
her face towards him. He is of the same 
mind as — was it Chateaubriand who said 
that not only had he no keen sense of 
wit, but that it was positively disagreeable 
to him ? 

* Do you never wish for a larger life ?' 
he says severely ; * more utterly human "i 
more rhythmical } fuller ?' 

' Never P says Gillian, stoutly. * If I 
had my choice, it should be, of the two, a 
little emptier. I am not afraid of work, as 
the servants say, but sometimes, what with 
the house, and the children, and the 
village, and the schools, and the Temper- 
ance-room, and the garden, I really do not 
know where to begin.' 


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First Thoughts. 19 

Her glance strays again unintentionally 
to her account-books, with a look which, to 
an instructed eye, says plainly that she 
would know well enough where to begin 
this morning were she only allowed the 
chance. His pale and misty glance follows 
the direction of hers. 

' But surely,' he says, with a sort of dis- 
dain, * there are moments when you feel 
the inarticulate throbbings of a divine dis- 

' Indeed there are not,' replies Gillian, 
emphatically. ' I am often discontented 
enough, notably when my uncle asks to 
the house three times as many people as 
there are beds and baths for, or when Dick 
is taken in the act of eating eleven green 
apples at a sitting ; but my discontent is 
always perfectly articulate, and not at all 

* Perhaps/ says Chaloner, with lenity, 
*you have never known a more beautiful 

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20 Second Thoughts. 

life : perhaps ' — with a hold-cheap glance 
through the snowy panes at the shrouded 
forms of the wintry trees, and the vague 
cold mounds and lumps that stand for 
shrubs and flower-beds — * perhaps you have 
always lived here/ with a gently con- 
temptuous accent. 

* Ever since my aunt died/ replies 
Gillian, her eyes idly fixed on the little 
ridge of crisp new snow that is momently 
growing larger on the window-ledge out- 
side. * That happened when I was four- 
teen : at fourteen I lengthened my gowns 
and threw away my lesson books, and took 
the reins into my hands, and' — with a 
smile of merriment yet resolution — * it will 
be some time before I drop them again.* 

' Until, I suppose,' says Chaloner, a faint 
ray of malice lighting up his wan face, 
* that very muscular young lady * — with a 
slight shudder — * your cousin Miss Jane, 
grows up and supersedes you/ 


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First Thoughts, 21 

' Nor then either,' cries Gillian, quickly — 
' none of them wish it ; Jane as little as any. 
I have been as good as a mother to them 
these six years — they all say so,' with a 
rather wistful look of appeal, which, like 
her former one, remains quite unanswered ; 
' they would not have the heart to oust me \ 
No,' in a reassured tone, * I have reigned 
too long to abdicate ; it would be the death 
of me !' 

' I should have thought,' says Chaloner, 
in a tone of cold disapproval, ' that you 
would have been glad to cast away the 
gyves of these unlovely cares,' waving his 
pale hand in the direction of the butcher 
and the baker, ' to have exchanged them, 
for an existence with more of melody and 
culture : an existence ' — sinking his voice 
to a subdued key, and looking pensively at 
the grate — * more saturated with sweetness 
and light.' 

Gillian shakes her head. 


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22 Second Thoughts. 

' I should not know what to do with it if 
I had it/ 

There is a silence. Beyond the window, 
snow, snow, snow ! and wrestling with it, 
whirling in furious dance with it, piling it 
here, sweeping it away there, is the sullen 
strong wind-demon. What hardiest crea- 
ture would venture across its own safe 
threshold to-day ? Gillian is apparently 
entirely absorbed by the great duel outside, 
but in reality she is furtively observing her 
neighbour out of the corner of one eye, to 
see whether he looks at all unsettled or likely 
to move. But no! nothing can be more 
expressive of fixed and lasting rest than his 

* I had hoped,* he says presently, with 
an air of pensive disappointment, * that 
there was an affinity of loneliness between 
us — I had thought that we were both 
alone ; but you — you have a father !' 

*Yes, I have a father,' replies the girl 


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First Thoughts. 23 

shortly, in a tone that seems to ward off 
further questions from the theme of her 

* And yet you live apart ?* he says inter- 
rogatively, and in a tone of more mundane 
curiosity than is usual with him, sitting 
upright in his chair, and looking directly at 
her, while his hand forgets to toy with his 

* Evidently,* she answers, laughing 
brusquely, * seeing that I live here ; and 
I cannot be in two places at once, like 
a bird. Come, let us go and' see how the 
Christmas-tree is getting on !' 

So saying, she rises hastily, and leads 
the way out of the room and to the scene 
of her last night's disaster. The Christ- 
mas-tree is standing in its dark-green glory 
— a glory which is rapidly changing its 
character. It is exchanging its own sober 
and monotonous decorations, its sombre, 
weighty cones for a world of frivolous little 


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24 Second Thoughts, 

flags, little pink candles, a gay variety of 
little fripperies. Many busy hands have 
been at work upon it since first the slow- 
winter dawn stole in, and now it is groan- 
ing beneath a burden of unnatural products 
under which its grave boughs droop. Upon 
its solemn forest head a tinselly doll stands 
pirouetting on one leg. About the room 
lie hoards of stores in heaps : boxes over- 
brimming with penny-trumpets, little tin 
men on little horses, pop-guns, whips, bon- 
bons — all the engines in fact that are to 
diffuse ear-piercing noises and widespread 
indigestions through a hundred happy 
homes to-morrow. For the moment, how- 
ever, the tree is alone. Of all the busy 
hands that have been bedizening it, none 
are to be seen. 

' Why, where are they ?' cries Gillian, 
puzzled ; * what has become of them H" 

' Yqu are looking too high for us,* cries 
Jane's shrill, decided voice, from a little 


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First Thoughts. 

distance off apparently ; * look lower, and 
you may probably find us !' 

Gillian turns, and, at the other end of 
the long and empty room, becomes aware 
of the whole strength of the company 
seated on the floor. Yes, even fat Mrs. 
Tarlton ; though how she got down there, 
and how she means to get up thence again, 
are questions that cannot but occur to 
any thinking mind. 

* Oh, Mrs. Tarlton,' says Gillian, in a 
shocked voice of hostess-concern, * there 
are no chairs ! I am so sorry ! — how will 
you get up again ?' 

* The same way in which I got down, 
my dear, I suppose,* replies Mrs. Tarlton, 
chuckling. * Some one will give me a 
helping hand ! — will not some one give me 
a helping hand ?' looking round with a 
good-humoured smile. 

But everybody is engaged in talk ; 
nobody hears her except her husband. 


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26 Second Thoughts. 

and he only scowls a little and looks 

* Do not scold us, Gill !' says the Squire, 
deprecatingly ; * we really have been work- 
ing very hard ! we are having ten minutes' 

And so they are. One glance suffices 
to explain the nature of their amusement. 
They are all spinning large humming-tops. 
Seven mature people and three immature 
ones, with intent faces and grave looks, 
are seated Turk-fashion on the cold 
parquet, emulously tying up each his top, 
and at a given signal friskily pulling the 

* Come and help us, Gill,* says the 
Squire, insinuatingly, feeling that if he 
can lure his niece and sovereign into a 
participation in his frailties, she will be the 
less able to scold him ; * come and sit by 

' That I will !' replies Gillian, joyously. 


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First Thoughts, 27 

* I love a top. Give me the biggest you 
can find/ 

*You too, Chaloner?' says the Squire, 
generously anxious to include everybody 
in the circle of his jollity. * No ? Well, 
of course,* with a laugh, ' we are a pack of 
old geese, and you must promise not to tell 
of us.' 

Ten minutes have passed, and they are 
still. spinning. The children, indeed, have 
grown tired of the sport, and have strayed 
back to the tree : tops to them are, or but 
lately have been, every-day occurrences ; 
but it is long indeed since General Tarlton, 
Brother Marlowe, and the Squire have 
tasted the poignant joy of tightly tying up, 
smartly pulling the string, and emulously 
letting go into the arena their several 

Not a word alien to the subject has been 
spoken for above a quarter of an hour. 
They have all risen from their squatting 


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28 Second Thoughts. 

position into a kneeling one. Kneeling 
you have a better purchase over your top. 
Brother Marlowe is watching with com- 
placency through his spectacles the steady, 
slumberous motionlessness of his ; General 
Tarlton is observing with chill misgiving 
a certain threatening wobbliness in the 
gait of his ; and the Squire is crestfallenly 
eying the shipwreck of his hopes, as his 
proUgd rolls away with drunken violence, 
noisily bumping itself against the wainscot. 
They are all so preoccupied that not one 
of them has heard the door open, nor is 
aware, until he is well in their midst, that 
a footman, with the beginnings of a 
smothered smile at their occupation on his 
decent, countenance, is presenting a man's 
visiting-card on a salver to Gillian. Even 
then it is not till General Tarlton's top has 
staggered away after the Squire's, and 
she has satisfied herself that even Brother 
Marlowe's is beginning to rock, that she 


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First Thoughts. 29 

can abstract her attention enough to 
stretch out a careless hand and say, in an 
indifferent voice : 

* Who can it be? surely no caller 
to-day ?* As her eyes fall on the inscribed 
name, no ray of intelligence or recognition 
lights up her face. * Dr._ Burnet !* she 
repeats, in a puzzled voice. * I am not 
any the wiser !' 

* Let us look at it. Gill,* says the Squire, 
taking the card in his turn, and also 
mystifically reading it. ' Dr. Burnet ! and 
who in the name of fortune is Dr. Burnet 
when he is at * 

He stops abruptly, becoming suddenly 
aware that the person upon whom they 
are so freely commenting is already in the 
room, well within eye and earshot of 
them all. 


by Google 


* I am his highness* dog at Kew. 
Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you ?* 

IN a moment they have all struggled up 
to their feet — nobody remembers to 
give Mrs. Tarlton a helping hand — ^guiltily 
dropping their tops, and resuming their 
man-and-womanhood. For a moment no 
one speaks. The intruder s eye is passing 
quickly and critically over the, to him, 
totally strange group. It slips rapidly 
over the elder people, rests a moment on 
the Tarlton girls, then turns to Gillian, 
and abides with her. 


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First Thoughts. 31 

' Am I speaking to Miss Latimer ?' he 
says, looking point-blank at her, and 
speaking in a voice that sounds harsh, and 
not at all shy. 

* That is my name !* she answers, sur- 

'Then I must ask the favour of five 
minutes' private conversation on important 
business with you at once,* he says, in a 
tone that is nothing less than entreating 
or deprecatory. 

So Gillian thinks. 

* If it is on business, the right person to 
whom to address yourself is Mr. Marlowe, 
my uncle *— with a lofty introductory wave 
of the hand. 

* Excuse me, my business is with 

There is something in his voice so 
trenchantly matter-of-fact and resolved, 
that Gillian finds herself involuntarily 
wavering and looking uncertainly across 


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32 Second Thoughts. 

for help to the Squire ; but as in every 
emergency of life he has always been in 
the habit of having his mind made up for 
him by her, and not vice versa, he is in no 
position to help her. So she has to decide 
for herself. 

* In that case, will you be so good as 
to follow me i*' she says, with stiff civility, 
beginning to sweep out of the room, with 
her flaxen head thrown well up, and 
leading the way into the adjoining 

Arrived there, she stands and faces 
him ; remains standing, indeed, for to sit 
down would be to admit that the interview 
may be long ; to stand is to imply that it 
must be short. He shuts the door sharply, 
and advancing towards her with the quick 
step of a man who is not in the habit of 
dawdling through life, comes to a stop 
exactly opposite to her, and immediately 


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First Thoughts. 33 

'You do not in the least know, I 
suppose, who I am/ 

' I have not that honour,* with a frostily 
regal inclination of the head. 

'Of course not !' he answers impatiently, 
with a sharp flash, out of a pair of cross 
eyes ; ' but it is necessary, in order that 
you may understand the matter, that you 
should know that I am your father's medi- 
cal attendant/ 

Again she bows, but this time the chilly 
pride of her look is mixed with and crossed* 
by a strain of apprehension and fear. 

' And he has sent me to summon you to 
him at once,* he continues, planting each 
word like a thrust, and watching to see 
how far it goes home. 

Her hand drops from the mantelpiece. 
She brings it and its white fellow together 
quickly in a clasp of dismay. 

'To summon me to him!* she cries, 
hastily, frost and royalty together dying 

VOL. I. 3 


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34 Second Thoughts. 

out of her voice, which is now only and 
entirely aghast ; * impossible !' 

* Impossible, is it ?' he says, coldly ; 
' and yet it does not seem a very unnatural 
wish in a man to have his only child beside 
his sick-bed/ 

At the disapprobation and rebuke of his 
tone, an angry crimson rushes to her 

' I think,' she says, haughtily, * that 
unless a person is in full possession of the 
circumstances of a case, he should not 
permit himself to give an opinion about 


If she expects that this thunderbolt will 
reduce her adversary to cinders, she is 
disappointed. He only says, drily : 

* And suppose that he is in possession of 
them ?' 

* In that case,* she says, incisively, * I 
cannot understand his consenting to become 
the bearer of such a message.* 


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First Thoughts. 35 

At the contempt of her tone his eyes 
flash again, and he seems about to speak 
hastily and angrily ; but after an instant's 
tussle, getting the better of himself, he 
says quietly : 

* Possibly ; but in this case it is the 
message — not the motives of the mes- 
senger — that is of importance to you/ 

If this set-down is less pungent than 
Gillian's own, it is also more effective, for 
it reduces her to momentary silence, which 
hers did not him. He approaches a little 
nearer the fire, at chilly distance from 
which he has been standing, and holds his 
hands to the blaze. 

* Come,' he says, in a more conciliatory 
tone, * there is no use in our bandying 
incivilities ; it can matter but little to you 
what has dictated my conduct : I am only 
the implement in a more powerful hand : 
the fact remains, your father has sent for you, 
and since you are a minor, you must go.' 


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36 Second Thoughts. 

* Must I ?* replies Gillian, stung by the 
peremptory nature of the last words, and 
reddening more deeply than before ; 
* pardon me if I disagree with you. You 
must excuse my putting the question' — 
with elaborate, angry politeness — *but I 
must ask you what authorisation you bring 
with you ?' 

Without verbal answer, he puts his hand 
into his breast-pocket, chooses from among 
a number of notes and memoranda one slip 
of paper, which he hands to her. 

As her eyes fall upon it, they see written 
in a hand not familiar indeed to her, for 
she has seen it but seldom, yet known 
enough to be at once recognised — a 
shaky, straggly old man's hand — ^these few 
words : 

* Do as the bearer bids you. 

' Your father, 

'Thomas Latimer.* 


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First Thoughts. 37 

As her eyes lift themselves slowly from 
this pregnant billet, they meet his, and en- 
counter them with a deep and defiant 
hostility. Gillian is not fond of obeying 
anyone, but to obey implicitly this manner- 
less, middle-class, insolent stranger! — she, 
before whom not only a large and numer- 
ous household, but a thriving, thickly- 
peopled village, and well-attended schools, 
not to speak of a class of reclaimed 
drunkards, have for six years bowed down 
and done obeisance ! Her blood, even on 
this freezing January day, boils at the 
thought. Her face changes swiftly from 
poppy-colour to milk, and back from milk 
to poppy-colour. 

* Your errand is ended now, I presume ?' 
she says, in a low voice, with trembling 
lips, and so steps hastily towards the door. 

' Stay !' he cries, unceremoniously, put- 
ting himself between her and it. ' The 
evening mail leaves Carnforth at 8*5 ; will 


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38 Second Thoughts. 

you — but indeed you must be ready to 
go by it !' 

She stops, for he has rendered exit diffi- 

* Thank you/ she says icily, with the 
slightest possible bend of her head, * but I 
need not trouble you about my arrange- 
ments : they are my affair.' 

* Of course they are mine too,' he says 
roughly, losing his temper, galled by her 
tone, and by the insolence of her grey 
eyes, ' seeing that we must travel together.' 

' Travel together !' she repeats angrily, 
turning the orbs which have hitherto dis- 
dained to look full at him, bright with 
hurt pride, upon his also angry face, 
' pardon me, if I see no such necessity.' 

He makes a movement of unmeasured 
irritation, but then hastily pulls himself 
together again, and says with tolerable 
civility of tone : 

' Why will not you be reasonable ? 


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First Thoughts. 39 

There is no doubt that, whether it is agree- 
able or disagreeable to you, ^yon will have 
to obey the orders* of the one person on 
earth who has best right to command you. 
Would not it be simpler — would not it 
show more common-sense to do it with a 
good grace than a bad one ?' 

She is silent, too utterly wrathful to be 
able to bring out a single word ; but the 
stubborn pride of her face shows him how 
little effect his words have had. 

* If,' he continues severely, with a tinge 
of strong sarcasm in his slow and empha- 
sised words — * if neither affection nor duty 
weigh with you, perhaps you will at least 
listen to the voice of interest. Let me as- 
sure you that if you persist in refusing, you 
will injure yourself and your own future 
far more than you will anyone else. Your 
father is ill, and ' 

' But is he ill ?' cries Gillian, the string 
of her tongue suddenly loosed, and a tor- 


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40 Second Thoughts, 

rent of excited words pouring from her lips, 
while cheeks and chin and pearl-fair throat 
grow all one red-rose flame, / that is the 
question. Perhaps, since you are so fully in 
possession of the circumstances of the case, 
you are aware that twice — three times in 
the course of my life he has sent for me 
in the same way, suddenly, without a 
moment's preparation. Once I was called 
up in the middle of the night, and when I 
got to him I found that it had been a mere 
whim, a caprice to show his power over 
me. He was as well as you or I ' 

She stops, out of breath. 

* This time he is not as well as you 
or I,' replies Burnet, quietly; *you need 
not be afraid !' 

Another silence — a more hostile one, 
if that be possible, than the former on 
Gillian's side ; a coldly observant and 
expectant one on his. When it has lasted 
some two or three minutes — a small 


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First Thoughts, 4r 

piece out of time's long sum if you 
measure it by the clock, but irksomely 
great for two perfectly unoccupied dumb 
persons — he breaks it. 

' The mail leaves Carnforth at 8*5/ he 
says, in a matter-of-fact business tone. 
' I am told that the distance from here 
is seven miles ; and as the roads are 
heavy, we had better not be later than 
seven in setting off.' 

Then he bows, no longer impeding, 
, but on the contrary aiding her exit, 
for he opens the door wide for her; 
and she, without another look at him, 
hurries out, forgetting even to hold up 
the head which sinks in completest dis- 
comfiture on her breast, worsted, dis- 
masted, routed ! If the village, the 
schools, and the reclaimed drunkards 
could see her now, would they know 


ze6 by Google 


SEVERAL hours have gone by, and 
the little drab day has already 
dropped into the maw of the huge and 
hungry night. It was most unlovely 
while it lived, and nobody regrets it 
now that it is dead. Probably to-mor- 
row will bring a little brother quite as 
ugly; but for the moment we may forget 
it, now that the curtains are heavily down- 
dropped, and the lamps steadily burning 
under gay shades. Lights in the rooms, 
lights in the passages, lights everywhere, 
save in the play-room, where the Christmas- 


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First Thoughts, 43 

tree stands with all his peg-tops and 
trumpets, with his crowning doll still 
poised on one leg, in the dark, forgotten 
and eclipsed. Yes ; eclipsed, and thrust 
into the shade by a newer topic of interest 
— by Gillian's going ; for Gillian is going. 
Her high looks and fiery words — her 
wreathed neck and flaming cheeks — have 
been among the utterly null and waste 
things of this wasteful world. 

Nobody seems one penny the worse 
for them ; and the brougham is ordered 
to be at the door at seven o'clock. It 
is not seven yet, however. There is still 
a spare half-hour. A sensible girl would 
be spending it in solid eating — one can 
eat a very great deal in half an hour — in 
upbuilding herself to defy the raw night 
and the railway buns ; but Gillian is doing 
nothing of the kind. She is sitting with 
her uncle in his study, giving him her 
last mournful commands and prohibitions, 


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44 Second Thoughts. 

which he is receiving with his usual com- 
plete teachableness. Her head is resting 
on his shoulder, and tears of mortification 
and sorrow are welling into her eyes and 
flowing over their brims. Sometimes she 
wipes them away ; sometimes he does ; 
sometimes they remain unwiped. 

' I suppose it is the best thing to do/ 
says the Squire, in a dolorous small voice ; 

* I suppose we could not do otherwise ?' 
A moment later, with a rather more 
cheerful intonation : ' I think he seems 
an honest fellow. Gill.* 

* Do you ?' says Gillian, with expressive 
accentuation. * I am sorry to differ from 
you, dear ; but I think, as far as one can 
judge from appearances, that he has quite 
one of the worst countenances I ever 

* Has he ?' replies the Squire, meekly. 

* I am no great physiognomist ; I daresay 
you are right.' 


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First Thoughts. 45 

A pause. 

' I cannot think what you will do without 
me/ says Gillian, with unconscious conceit, 
sadly gazing at the glowing coals, as pic- 
tures of the total disorganisation of family, 
house, and village, consequent on her 
departure, march gloomily through her 

' I am sure I cannot think,' echoes the 
poor Squire, humbly. 

* I fear you will all be at sixes and 
sevens by the time I come back.' 

* I am sure we shall.' 

* Try to keep things together, dear,' in 
a gently hortatory voice — *try to keep a 
tight hand on the reins.' 

* I will try. Gill,' not very confidently. 

' I am a little afraid of Jane,' pursues 
Gillian, thoughtfully ; ' she is a good girl, but 
rather inclined to be self-willed and master- 
ful' — as if these were the last qualities 
with which she herself could have any sym- 


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46 Second Thoughts, 

pathy. ' Will you try to keep her a little 
in check ?* 

' If you wish, Gill/ with less confi- 

Another pause. 

* Sophia Tarlton has promised to take 
my drunkards/ continues the girl, thought- 
fully. ' I have left all my Temperance 
tracts in the order in which I wish her to 
read them ; I am anxious that she should 
make no mistake. Will you remind her ?' 

'Yes, Gill' 

Again they are silent, but so is not the 
wind. Plainly they can hear it raving and 
tearing and hustling outside. 

Gillian shudders. 

' What have I done to deserve a journey 
of a hundred and fifty miles on such a 
night, and in such company ?* she groans, 
with an accent of angry contempt. 

* Perhaps, after all, he may not be such 
bad company,' says the Squire, consolingly; 


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First Thoughts, 47 

* perhaps — who knows ? — he may turn out 
quite a pleasant fellow !' 

* I shall certainly not give him the 
chance/ returns Gillian, with dignity ; * his 
proximity is forced upon me, but I may, 
at least, be spared his conversation ; 
nothing will induce me to open my lips 
to him/ ' 

* What ! not between Carnforth and 
Euston ?* raising his grey eyebrows with 
an air of slight incredulity. 

* Undoubtedly not !' 

Panoplied in this splendid resolution. 
Miss Latimer, now that the last half hour 
is up and the brougham at the snowy door, 
prepares to go off into the inky night 
with the escort, who is as yet ignorant of 
her sociable intentions towards him. 

Totally neglected by everybody — for is 
not everybody fully occupied in kissing 
and crying over Gillian ? — he is inoffen- 
sively employed in the background in 


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48' Second Thoughts, 

putting on his own coat and drawing on a 
very ugly pair of woollen gloves. 

* Good-bye, dear !' says Gillian, solemnly, 
and in a rather choked voice, though still 
with a tone of authority and admonition in 
it, as she throws two furry arms round her 
uncle's neck. Remember all I have told 
you, and let me find everything just as I 
left it when I come back/ 

' If you are not back by Sunday, Gill, / 
will take your class,' cries Jane, in a con- 
fident, managing voice. * I will do the 
mothers' meeting and the Temperance- 
room — do not be afraid !' 

Emilia says nothing, being dumbly 
whimpering ; and Dick has begun to 
bellow so monstrously loud that he has to 
be carried off, tearfully bawling that it is 
all the fault of those nasty candles, and 
easing his mind by hammering the face of 
the unoffending footman who is bearing 
him away. 


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First Thoughts. 49 

The adieux are ended now, and Gillian 
turns towards the snowy night and the 
open brougham door, but at a sudden 
thought once more looks round. What 
has become of her maid ? the maid whose 
protecting presence is to ensure her against 
all danger of the proximity of her ob- 
noxious companion, for the brougham is a 
single one, and of course holds only 

* Where is Griffiths? Tell her that I 
am waiting.' 

* If you please, ma am, she has gone on 
in a fly with the luggage.* 

Gone on in a fly with the luggage! 
At hearing these words Gillian's heart 
sinks with a sick presage of misfortune. 
But desperate ills ask desperate remedies. 
Presence of mind and resolution of 
character have ere now saved people out 
of worse dilemmas than this ; but, in order 
to effect her own rescue, she must even 

VOL. I. 4 

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50 Second Thoughts. 

thus early break through her vow of 
silence. She turns to her fellow-traveller, 
and says with an air of chill decision : 

* You no doubt wish to smoke ? There 
is no reason why we need take a footman ; 
you will therefore be able to go on the 

The snow is driving into and the wind 
cutting her eyes as she speaks, which no 
doubt renders her vision imperfect, else — 
were she not assured that it is impossible — 
she would say that there was a twinkle of 
angry mirth in his eyes, as he answers, 
bowing formally : 

* Thank you ; I do not smoke. As I 
have already a cold, I will, with your 
permission, come inside.' 

She cannot suggest that he shall run 
behind the carriage like a boy, or under- 
neath it like a dog, which are the only other 
alternatives ; and as they are all calling to 
her, and bidding her make haste out of the 


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First Thoughts. 51 

storm, there is nothing for it but that she 
should put her indignant foot on the 
already whitened step and spring in. He 
follows her without an instant's delay, 
and the horses, fidgety and stung by the 
cold, set off at once with a plunge. Even 
her last look at her beloved ones is spoilt 
by having to be thrown across her neigh- 
bour. And yet it is not very likely that 
he should think that any of its valedictory 
sweetness was meant for him, or try to 
appropriate it. They are off on their six 
hours' tite-d-t^te ; the same foot- warmer 
communicating its peaceable warmth to 
both alike ; the same wolf-skin rug covering 
both their knees, and yet with as honest 
an intention of being as disagreeable to 
each other, as circumstances will allow, as 
ever filled two human breasts. To make 
a good beginning, Gillian has ostenta- 
tiously contracted herself into as small a 
compass as she can, and shrunk up into 


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52 Second Thoughts. 

her corner, sweeping away her fur-cloak 
as far as may be from his neighbourhood ; 
but it is to be feared that owing to the 
complete darkness this action is somewhat 
thrown away, and that till the last hour of 
his life he never knows, though he may 
suspect, how solicitous she was on that 
first night of their acquaintance to shun 
his slightest contact. They have reached 
the lodge. Gillian lets down the glass, 
and cries out a friendly good-bye in the 
darkness to the lodge-keeper, who, Ian- 
thorn in hand and shawl over head, runs 
out to open the gate. They are in the 
road now — the broad main-road. It is 
already several inches deep in snow ; but 
the horses are strong, and gallantly breast 
the long steep hills, so there is no cause 
for apprehension. So Gillian thinks ; and 
resolving to abstract herself as much as 
possible from her disagreeable entourage, 
she leans back in her corner, thrusting her 


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First Thoughts. 53 

hands still further into her mufiF, and 
raising her shoulders so as to sink her 
neck more deeply into her fur-tippet, like 
a bird's head into its feathers. Her mind 
travels first back into the past, confidently, 
for she knows the road is pleasant ; into 
her own full busy life, a life of guiding, 
ordering, managing. She sighs gently, 
and repeats to herself the apprehension 
she had already expressed to her uncle : 
* What will they do without me 'i' 
Then her mood of self-complacent 
regret melts and changes. It is the future 
which she is now facing ; the future, 
through whose haze looms the figure — 
little known, yet how much dreaded — of 
her father ; the father, old, very old — old 
enough to be her grandfather — with whom 
she has never lived, in separation from 
whom her mother passed the last years of 
her short and blameless life ; who, for as 
long as Gillian can remember, has not 


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54 Second Thoughts. 

been on speaking terms with her uncle ; 
concerning whose mode of life she knows 
absolutely nothing, save what she has 
gathered from a few dark hints picked up 
haphazard here and there ; hints which 
imply that it were better she should not 
know. She is roused from her medita- 
tions by the sound of a movement of some 
kind on the part of her companion. It is 
too dark to see what he is about. Is he 
going to sneeze ? In her present mood 
even this would seem an impertinence. I 
do not think that even a pick-purse motion 
of his hand in the direction of her own 
pocket would greatly surprise her. She 
is not long left in doubt. The indetermi- 
nate sounds of stirring and seeking on 
his part are soon exchanged for the 
distinct scrape and scratch of a lighting 
match ; and now a little point of flame has 
sprung into being, and is dimly seen to 
be protected from death by a woollen- 


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First Thoughts. 55 

gloved hand. Then there comes another 
little sound, as of a lanthorn being opened, 
and next moment the match's unsteady 
light is communicated to the candle in a 
small carriage-lamp, and is burning clear 
and steady. Then a voice comes. 

' Do you object to the light ?* he asks 
curtly, in a tone of almost as much con- 
tained hostility as her own ; * because, if 
not, I should be glad to read.' 

For a moment she demurs, unwilling to 
accede to any proposal made by him, how- 
ever harmless, or in itself even desirable ; 
loth to give her consent to anything that 
is likely to promote his comfort. 

' It cannot affect you much,* he goes 
on impatiently, while she feels, without 
seeing, that through the obscurity he is 
glowering irritatedly at her — ' it will not 
hinder your sleeping if you wish. We have 
neither of us any desire to talk ; and to 
get an undisturbed hour's reading is a 


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56 Second Thoughts. 

great object to me/ He stops, awaiting 
her answer. 

She must give one of some kind or 

* Pray do as you please/ she says, 
ungraciously ; * it is a matter of complete 
indifference to me.* 

But it is not. However, he requires 
no further permission, but at once fastens 
the lamp by its little hook into the 
cushion behind him, and takes out a 
hook. Gillian tries to resume her medi- 
tations, and to pick them up again at 
the point where they had been broken 
off; tries to summon up again the image 
of her father, and to re-marshal in order 
her faint reminiscences of him, and her 
resolutions to do him good, whether he 
likes it or not. But it is no use. It 
is true that the candle is no annoyance 
to her personally, since her head and 
eyes are in deep shade. The modest 


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First Thoughts. 57 

I light falls only on the open book, on 

the wolf-skin rug, on Burnet's woollen 
fingers as he turns the page ; but the 
idea of it teases her. There is also a new 
sense of offence and brooding injury in 
her breast. His * neither of us has any 
desire to talk' rankles in her mind. If 
it is undoubtedly true, yet it is not his 
part to say so. Though, of course, 
nothing would induce her to converse, 
yet he ought to be not only willing but 
anxious to do so, did she give him an 
opening. By-and-by that curiosity which 
has beset us all in our day, which count- 
less times has prompted us, in boat and train 
and public conveyance, to find out what 
our unknown companion is reading, and 
so peep as through a loophole into his 
mind, begins to worry her. Even from 
the comparatively distant fastness of her 
corner, she can make out that the broad 
and clearly-printed page outspread on 


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58 Second Thoughts. 

her neighbours knees belongs to the 
Nineteenth Century ; but what the special 
article is that engages his attention is 
more than she can decipher. Only it 
has a light and winsome look, large 
islands of verse apparently swimming in 
little seas of prose. 

After resisting the temptation for some 
time, she at last edges a little nearer, 
quite noiselessly, and without any danger 
of detection, as she flatters herself. 
Finding that nothing can be easier, she 
begins, almost before she is aware, to 
read over her enemy's shoulder with him. 
It is apparently a paper on the Greek 
Anthology, in which little jewels of Greek 
fancy, Greek love, Greek sorrow, deftly 
done into English verse of different 
metres, sparkle and blaze on threads of 
prose. Some minutes pass. She has 
read a page and a half, and has for- 
gotten the snowstorm, her father, Burnet, 


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First Thoughts. 59 

and herself. Her eyes are eagerly travel- 
ling cfver this paragraph : 

*The next is Elizabethan too, if I 
may classify my poets, but full of epithets 
almost impossible to English. 

' I cry you, Love, at earliest break of day ; 
But now, even now, his wings the wanderer spread 

And passed away, 
Leaving his empty bed. 

* Ho ! ye that meet the boy — for such is he — 
Full of sweet tears and wit, a fickle sprite, 

Laughing and free, 
With wings and quiver bright 1 

* Yet know I not on whom to father Love, 
For earth denies the wanton child his name, 

And air above. 
And the broad sea the same. 

* With each and all he lives at feud. Beware, 
Lest while I speak he cast 

A dainty snare 
Over your hearts at last. 

' But, see ' 

At this point, and while she is still six 


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6o Second Thoughts, 

lines from the bottom, a woollen finger and 
thumb smartly turns over the page and 
whips the rest of the poem away from her 

Involuntarily she utters a little inar- 
ticulate cry, and half stretches out her 
hand in prohibition. The sound and the 
action together recall her to herself. In 
a moment she has shrunk up again into 
her corner, shamed, remorseful, red, and 
hoping that her lapse from dignity and 
self-respect has been perceived by no one 
but herself. But in this she is apparently 

* Did you speak T he says, lifting his 

' No — o !* she stammers ; * I — I — only 

' I beg your pardon,' he rejoins, drily ; 
* I thought you spoke.' 

For the rest of the distance before 
Carnforth is reached, Gillian sits as still as 


by Google 

First Thoughts. 


a mouse, gnawed by angry self-reproach, 
execrating the Greek Anthology, and for- 
getting even to think of how much they 
are missing her at home. 


by Google 










/^^ARNFORTH station is very empty 
^-^ when they arrive there. The wind, 
with his long, stinging lash, seems to have 
driven everyone off the platform, except 
the porters and a few ulstered, com- 
fortered men, stamping up and down, 
waiting for the night mail. 

In the waiting-room Gillian finds half a 
dozen chilly, muffled women, who grudg- 
ingly make way for her to draw in her 
chair also, and put her boots on the 


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First Thoughts, 63 

The train is late. It seems to Gillian 
that she spends a long time staring at the 
big lumps of coal and the plentiful ashes in 
the dirty grate before the sounds of distant 
whistle and near bell tell her that it is 
coming. Then all the other women pick 
up their bags and boxes and hurry away, 
either alone or beckoned off by a summon- 
ing husband. Her own escort is the last 
to appear, but at length he, too, puts in his 

* Will you come, please T 

She follows him in silence along the 
platform ; but having arrived at the door 
of an empty carriage, into which he 
motions her, speaks : 

* Will you tell my maid, please ? I 
always have her in the same carriage 
with me.' 

* I am afraid that you will have to do 
without her to-night,' he answers, not 
offering to move. ' I have just ascertained 


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64 Second Thoughts. 

that neither she nor your luggage have yet 

* Not arrived !' cries Gillian, in a voice 
of consternation, facing him in the windy 
gaslight ; ' and you suppose that I am 
going to set off without her ! Quite im- 
possible ! Of course I shall wait !* 

* That is much more impossible,' rejoins 
Burnet, firmly ; * there is no other train 
till 7*5 to-morrow morning. I have left 
word that she is to follow you as soon as 
possible. I think I must ask you to get 
in, please.' 

He looks so resolved, and the porters 
are beginning to shut the carriage-doors so 
quickly, and her own mind is in such a 
whirl of doubt and disgust, that there is 
nothing for it but to obey. Put to the 
rout for the third time within six hours, 
she stumbles up the high step, blinded 
with rage. 

Again they are off; embarked now 


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First Thoughts, 65 

upon the second and larger half of their 
unnatural tite-a-tHe, There is but one 
improvement upon the first part in it, and 
that is that they may at least be farther 
away from each other. There need be 
now no contact of hostile sleeves, no en- 
forced partnership in one rug. 

Gillian's window is down, and through 
it, as they begin to move more quickly, the 
cutting night-wind comes in full blast. 
Without speaking, Burnet crosses over 
from his own seat and begins to draw up 
the sash. She has certainly every wish 
that it should be pulled up, and had he left 
it alone, would undoubtedly have pulled it 
up herself; but now, since he is doing her 
this little service without asking her leave, 
a spirit of foolish and irrational contra- 
diction prompts her to put her hand upon 
it and say stiffly : 

* Excuse me, I prefer it down.* 

' Down r he repeats, in an accent of 

VOL. I. 5 

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66 Second Thoughts. 

excessive astonishment, looking hard at 
her with unconcealed incredulity in his 
eyes — ' to-night ! Are you serious ?* 

* Certainly I am,' she replies, shortly, 
nettled at the suggestion of its being 
possible that she should indulge in plea- 
santry with him, and doubly exasperated 
by the consciousness that she is making 
a fool of herself; * I like air/ 

* Indeed !' he says, with a dry smile and 
a shrug ; * you will certainly have plenty 
of it \ and so returns to his corner, and 
puts on another coat. 

Gillian remains the victor ; but in this, 
as in many other cases, how much worse 
is victory than defeat. Before five minutes 
are over, what would she not have given 
to be beaten in the conflict ! Was there 
ever a wind that carried so much ice and 
so many knives with it as that which — 
strong as a furnace-blast, cold as death — 
is now cruelly blowing full against her, and 


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First Thoughts. 67 

seems to cut her face into ribbons ? She 
holds up her muff to try and protect her- 
self a little, but the knife- wind gets over and 
under and through and on both sides of 
it — runs in terrible play up her sleeves, 
laughs at her furs, and derides her wraps. 
Is there any one drop of blood in her veins 
that is not frozen ? She bears it with sense- 
less Spartanhood for as long as endurance 
is possible. To her it appears several 
hours : in reality, it is probably about 
ten minutes. Then, looking furtively to- 
wards her enemy, and perceiving that he 
has every appearance of being asleep, 
with head sunk on chest and hat tilted 
over his eyes, she begins cautiously to try 
and pull up the sash. But her numbed 
hands have lost most of their power, and 
the window is stiff; tug and tug as she 
may, she cannot get it to stir. She desists 
at last, and in despair changes her seat 
—tries the middle place ; but the wind, 


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68 Second Thoughts. 

now carrying sleet also with it, reaches her 
there too — she sits with her back to the 
engine, but all is of no avail. The whole 
carriage is turned into an icehouse. Once 
again she glances towards her neighbour. 
Apparently he is still sleeping like a baby. 
She tries again at the window, standing 
up this time so as to bring more force to 
bear upon it. But her struggles are abso- 
lutely useless. 

She leaves off at last, and sinks despe- 
rately into her original corner — the most 
exposed in the whole carriage, while 
into her smarting eyes tears of utter phy- 
sical wretchedness, of mortification, and 
yet of anger too, still creep saltly. Who 
but one destitute of all delicate and 
gentlemanlike feeling could sleep through 
such a crisis ? She is sitting with her 
muff again lifted to, and pressed against, 
her face, when a sudden voice beside her 
startles her. 


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First Thoughts. 69 

' Do you still like air ? or have you had 
enough ?* 

She looks up hastily ; her pride and self- 
respect too much drowned and swallowed 
up in bodily misery for her to remember 
or heed that rapidly freezing tears are on 
her cheeks, and that he can distincdy see 
them. Mutely, for she feels as if her voice 
were frozen too, she motions towards the 
window, but apparently this time he will 
not proceed without the most distinct in- 
structions from her. 

' Am I to understand that you wish it 
shut ?' he asks formally, without a tinge of 
apparent compassion, but not without a 
distinct suspicion of stifled entertainment 
in his voice. 

' Shut ! shut !* she gasps, half sobbing, 
while her teeth chatter so much as to 
render her scarcely intelligible. 

In a moment, forced by a good strong 
jerk, the shielding pane interposes its 


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yo Second Thoughts. 

slight but potent barrier between her and 
the dread forces of the night. 

Burnet returns to his seat, and sneezes 
several times. 

She has at least the comfort of thinking 
that she has made his cold distinctly worse. 
It is perhaps well that she should have 
this one morose consolation, for certainly 
it is her only one. Her body has been so 
thoroughly chilled, that through the whole 
long journey she is quite unable to raise its 
temperature again to anything like an 
agreeable or wholesome level. She is too 
cold to sleep, too cold to read, too cold to 
think connectedly of anything but her own 
coldness. It seems to her that there will 
never be an end to this chill rushing 
through the raven night ; this flashing 
through deserted stations ; this flickering 
of the faint lamp on the cushions, and on 
the mufiled form of the silent man at the 
other end of the carriage. His absolute 


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First Thoughts. 71 

motionlessness gets upon her nen^^es at 
last. In point of fact, he is sleeping the 
honest sleep of a tired man, who has not 
been in bed for three nights. But to her 
it seems, in her overwrought state, that to 
be so absolutely still he must be dead. 
She is quite relieved when he wakes, 
sneezes again, 'and alters his posture a 
little ; even though his eyes in opening 
meet hers, nervously peering at, and fixed 
upon him. Cheered by no friendly com- 
panionship, lightened by no chat, shortened 
by no slumber, the dreary night walks on. 
It is one o'clock in the morning, when at 
length they draw up along the platform 
at Euston. Having no luggage they 
get off easily and quickly, and are soon 
jogging and bumping, in all the ineffable 
discomfort of a cold yet stuffy four-wheeler, 
along the streets and thoroughfares, still 
wakeful and astir. 

From Euston to Belgravia is, as we all 


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72 Second Thoughts. 

know, a considerable distance. Progress 
over the frozen pavement and the slippery 
asphalte with a jaded old horse is neces- 
sarily slow. By the time they reach 

Square, Gillian is one degree 

number, two degrees wearier, three 
degrees crosser, than when she left the 
railway station. The door is opened by 
an affable but sleepy charwoman, at sight 
of whom Burnet utters an exclamation of 
surprise, and says half to himself: 

* All gone to bed, I suppose T 

Then he quickly leads the way through 
a cold hall, and up a flight of carpetless 
stone stairs ; then up a second flight of 
equally carpetless wooden ones, till they 
come to a standstill on a carpetless landing, 
outside a bedroom door. 

* Will you wait here ?' he asks, in a half 
whisper, as he puts out his knuckles to 
knock. She nods sullenly, and he, having 
been admitted by a woman in the dress of 


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First Thoughts. 73 

a nurse, enters. He leaves the door ajar, 
so she is able to get a faint view of a room 
indistinctly lit by fire and night-light, and 
of a large bed. 

* So it is you, is it ?* she hears a small, 
old voice say peevishly ; * it is a comfort 
to think that you have not hurried your- 

' I came as quickly as I could,' replies 
the other, quietly. 

* And have you brought my Cordelia 
with you }' rejoins the old voice, with a 
little acrid laugh. 

* Miss Latimer is here ; will you see her 
to-night ? — now ?* 

* God bless my soul, no \ — with a great 
access of ill-humour — * where is the hurry ? 
It is a pleasure that will keep !* 

Burnet says, * Hush !* and looks appre- 
hensively towards the door, to which 
indeed he now returns, and addresses his 
late travelling companion : * He does not 


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74 Second Thoughts. 

feel equal to the exertion to-night/ he 
says, speaking with some hurry and con- 
fusion. * He prefers * 

'Thank you/ replies Gillian, causti- 
cally ; * you need not trouble yourself 
to repeat — unfortunately for me I 
am not deaf — it is a pleasure that will 
keep !' 

Burnet looks a little foolish, and goes 
back to his patient. Before long, however, 
he rejoins her on the landing, where she is 
still standing : being indeed so unfamiliar 
with her father^s house, as not to know 
where else to go. Both his sharp eyes 
and his quick voice express sincere con- 
cern and vexation. 

' I am so sorry,* he begins almost 
humbly ; ' I really do not know how to 
tell you ; but it seems that in my absence 
he has sent off all the servants — dismissed 
them at a moment's notice. It was one of 
his freaks ; he did it once before. There 


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First Thoughts, 75 

is not a soul left in the house but the char- 
woman who let us in/ 

As Gillian remains stupidly silent, he 
adds in a tone of extreme irritation : 

' He says he could not help it ; that the 
thought that a pack of hungry rascals were 
eating their heads off at his expense while 
he was kept on slops, was more than he 
could bear ! And you have not even your 
maid with you!' — compassionately — *what 
are we to do ?' 

* Pray do not concern yourself !' replies 
the girl, recovering her speech, and 
irrationally offended at his employment 
of the pronoun *we/ *When I set off 
this afternoon I braced myself to meet 
any and every hardship and indignity/ 

At the pseudo-patience and real ill- 
humour of her face and tone, his compas- 
sion — perhaps easily put to flight — takes 
to itself wings. 

* Hardships !* he repeats, a little con- 


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76 Second Thoughts. 

temptuously ; * you must have very little 
practical acquaintance with the word to 
apply it in such a context. And as to 
indignities* — flashing an exasperated look 
at her in the gaslight — * pshaw ! who is 
thinking of offering you any ?* 

A moment later, with a more temperate, 
yet still impatient accent of appeal : 

' If you would but be reasonable, things 
would be so much easier !* 

Total silence is all the answer this 
request obtains. 

* Well,' he says, shrugging, and with a 
rather compunctious glance at her tired 
figure, as she leans dispirited, yet wrathful, 
against the banisters, with lips that quiver, 
though her eyes are still mutinous and 
haughty — ' Well, one thing is certain, you 
can't stand here all night ; will you follow 
me, please ?' 

So speaking, he leads the way towards 
another door on the same landing, and 


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First Thoughts, yy 

opens it with the remark, * This is the 
room that I told them to get ready for you/ 

He has certainly no intention of offend- 
ing her by the observation, and yet at 
every word he sinks deeper into the mire 
of her ill esteem. */ told them to get 
ready for you P 

What business had he to tell them ? 
Are they, or rather were they, his 
servants ? Is this his house ? Well, at 
all events, whether he had a right to give 
them or not, his orders have been most 
indifferently obeyed. As the door opens, 
a chill air meets them, as of a room not 
lately occupied. No warm glow of old- 
established fire and glimmer of tall wax 
candles melt and brighten the girl's frozen 
weariness. The fire is indeed evidently 
but just lit, although around it, arranged 
in semicircle over the backs of chairs, 
hang mattresses and sheets to air. For 
such a fire it would be a task too heavy 


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78 Second Thoughts, 

to air a pocket-handkerchief. Kneeling 
before it, on the rug, is the charwoman, 
working hard away at a pair of bellows. 
As they enter, she stops for a moment to 
look at them, and at once the weakling 
flame, no longer urged into spurious gaiety 
by the bellow's blast, flags and subsides 
again into blackness. 

At this encouraging sight, Burnet utters 
an exclamation of strong disgust, and 
begins to rush into a hasty speech, in 
which, however, he stops short. Perhaps 
it strikes him that the reason why his 
commands have been so poorly executed 
is, that there has been no one to execute 
them. Without another word he seizes 
the bellows from the inefficient haiid that 
grasps them, and dropping on his knees, 
begins to grind away with such a potent 
and steady fury, that before many minutes 
are over the sulky flame races willy-nilly 
straight and strong up the chimney. 


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First Thoughts. 79 

Gillian remains silently watching him ; 
her sole attempt at conversation being a 
shivering eager acceptance of the char- 
woman's proposal to go and make her a 
cup of tea. After a while Burnet rises 
from his knees, and glancing at the nosv 
vigorous tongues of flame that are curling 
round and licking the coals, and spiring 
brightly upwards with something of a 
creator's satisfaction, advances towards 
her, bellows in hand. 

' That is better, is not it ?* he says, 
cheerfully. She bends her head a very 
little, in frigid assent. * Bad is the best, 
I am afraid !* he says, looking round rather 
ruefully, and then, seeking her eye as if 
he Would be glad to find there some civil 
recognition, however slight, of his honest 
endeavours for her comfort. 

' Thank you !' she says, sourly, for 
to-night she could not get , her good 
temper back, even if she wished, and 


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8o Second Thoughts. 

she does not wish it ; * it is not very- 
much worse than I expected.' 

At her words, the look of friendly 
appeal dies out of his eyes. He turns 
abruptly on his heel, and dropping the 
bellows noisily, with a movement as ill- 
humoured as one of her own, goes to the 
door, and, without any further words or' 
parting salutation of any Jcind, good or 
bad, walks out, and leaves her standing 
among her mattresses like Marius among 
the ruins of Carthage. 


by Google 


^ I ^HE night IS past. GiIIian*s first 
-*^ night under her father's roof, and 
quite the most disagreeable night she 
has ever spent, excepting perhaps two 
or three in early childhood dedicated 
to croup and measles, and whose woes 
have grown dim by distance. A night 
without night-clothes, a dressing and un- 
dressing without any toilet apparatus, an 
absolute brushlessness, comblessness — 
worst of all, tooth-brushlessness. To one 
ill such perfect health as she, it has 
generally seemed enough to constitute a 
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82 Second Thoughts. 

bad night If she has heard the clock strike 
once. To-night there is hardly an hour 
of whose coming and going she is iiot 
wakefully aware. A deep distrust of the 
dryness of her sheets first drives sleep 
away. Then follows a panic recollection 
of all the anecdotes she has heard of 
people who have been paralysed for life 
by sleeping in such. Then a frenzied 
rising and tearing of them off the bed ; 
then a miserable rolling and tossing, irri- 
tated by the unwonted contact of the safe 
but tickling blankets. She is glad when 
day comes, though nothing can be shab- 
bier or more hang-dog than its mode of 
entry. She gropes her way to the 
windows ; and unbarring shutters, and 
drawing back curtains, looks out into the 
square at the besmirched snow that over- 
lies bush and flower-bed in the square 
garden — already, though it fell but yester- 
day, speckled with blacks into an ugly 


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First Thoughts. 83 

pepper-and-saltiness — how unlike the 
clear candescence of country snow ! Out 
of it a few chrysanthemum wrecks are 
lifting themselves, pinched and tall. She 
raises her eyes, and they wander among 
the multiform chimney-pots, the hooded 
ones veering compliantly round with the 
wind, the straight ones standing steady 
against the grim sky. 

An early milk-cart with milk-cans rattling 
in it is jogging by. She thinks with dis- 
gusted comparison of her morning out-look 
at home ; of the stretch of dazzling snow- 
sweep under her window, touched by 
nothing impurer than the fine light foot- 
steps of the pretty birds ; of the wonderful 
snow-patterns, fantastically lovely, drawn 
by winter impartially on the green-clothed 
firs and the bare brown forest-trees. 

By-and-by, having made such mutilated 
toilet as she can — and it is not easy to 
dress hair with no other comb than your 


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84 Second Thoughts. 

fingers, and no other brush than the palm 
of your hand — and having breakfasted 
with sketchy discomfort on such tea and 
tough toast as the charwoman — at present 
her only Providence — sees fit to put before 
her, she issues from her room, and sets out 
on a voyage of exploration over the house. 
It is really of exploration, for she has 
never been in it before, her father having 
occupied another on her last visit to him ; 
and though nothing very original or new 
is likely to reward her curiosity in the 
dull uniformity of a London house, yet it 
is as well to learn the landmarks of the 
country to which freakful fate has brought 

She opens one door ; then another ; 
then another, with the" persistency of 
Bluebeard's wife. Always the same sight 
meets her : carpet rolled up, curtains 
folded, hoUand-swaddled chairs, some on 
their own legs, some with their legs in the 


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First Thoughts. 85 

air ; bagged chandeliers, muffled pictures 
in hall and landing; statues and busts 
dimly outlined through their shrouds 
meet and startle her. 

There grows upon her quite a nightmare- 
feeling at last. How long is she to live 
alone among this nation of bags — the 
only unbagged thing amongst them ? 
Involuntarily she glances down nervously 
at herself. Perhaps, without knowing it, 
she is in a bag too. 

By-and-by she strays into the library, 
and lifting a corner of the great sheet 
which hangs white and ghostly over the 
tall bookcases, peeps at the titles of the 
books beneath. Below, the heavy quartos 
that no one reads — weighty classics, pon- 
derous Fathers, slumbering year-long 
undisturbed ; encyclopaedias, annual re- 
gisters. Above, rows upon rows of 
tempting octavos. 

She has just — standing on tiptoe, for it 


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86 Second Thoughts. 

IS almost beyond her reach — pulled out 
one of the latter, and begun shortly to dip 
into it, when the noise of the opening door, 
and the apparition of a face and eyes 
looking inquiringly around it, disturbs 
her. It is the trim, staid hospital nurse, 
of whom she caught a glimpse last night, 
giving admittance to Burnet. 

* I beg your pardon, ma am,' she says 
civilly, *but Mr. Latimer is asking for 

* Is he ?* cries Gillian, in a rather 
awed voice, hastily replacing her volume 
exactly level with its fellows, and emerg- 
ing from under the sheet ; * I will 

As she follows her guide up the 
naked echoing stairs, she tries, and pretty 
successfully, to still the qualms of her 
trepidating heart by stout thoughts of 
the judicious gentleness and respectful 
tact with which she will seize every 


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First Thoughts. 87 

opening to put in a profitable word in 
the coming conversation. 

' I have always had great influence 
over the people with whom I lived/ 
she says to herself, throwing a compla- 
cent glance over memory's shoulder at 
the docile Squire. 

They have reached her father's door, 
and are on the point of opening it, 
when a sudden doubt strikes Gillian — a 
doubt that sends a sharpness to her 
tone and a flash into her eyes. 

'Is he alone ?' she says suspiciously ; 
* are you sure that he is alone ?* 

* Quite sure, ma'am,' replies the nurse, 
and they enter. 

The curtains are only half-drawn ; the 
blinds but half pulled up. The bed 
is in a recess, so that it is not till 
Gillian is close by the bedside that she 
sees with any distinctness its occupant. 
As he does not even then give her any 


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88 Second Thoughts, 

verbal greeting, or stretch out his hand 
to her, she stoops, and, thinking that it 
is expected of her, kisses him timidly 
and rather shrinkingly. But she is soon 
disabused as to this having been the 
invalid's desire. 

' God bless my soul, child !' he cries 
crossly, rubbing his face with a very fine 
cambric pocket-handkerchief, * how cold 
your cheek is. I think, my dear, ne vous 
en ddplaise, that we will defer the repetition 
of that ceremony, sine die' 

At this fatherly speech the red gallops 
to her fresh cheeks. They make the 
one bit of bright colour in the grey 
room. This is not the way in which 
her kisses have been wont to be re- 
ceived. She is too choked by hurt pride 
and wounded feeling to be able to 
answer in words, but she nods silently. 
With her long arms hanging by her 
sides, and her eyelashes drooped on her 


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First Thoughts. 89 

flaming cheeks, she remains standing by 
the bedside, nervously afraid of making 
any new step in this quite unknown 
country, after the very ill success of her 
last, and hotly conscious that her every 
physical defect is being gauged and mea- 
sured by a pair of keenly critical old 

' I must apologise for not having been 
able to receive you last night,' resumes the 
old voice presently, in a tone of frosty, 
conventional civility. ' I hope,' with a 
tinge of acid amusement in his thin tones, 
* that you had a pleasant journey/ 

* Pleasant !' she cries tragically, quickly 
raising her lids, while, from under them, 
flashes a sudden, angry, grey arrow, * that 
is so likely !' Then hastily breaking off, 
and speaking more quietly, though still in 
a tone of profound indignation, * I would 
have come of my own accord, without 
being fetched like a naughty child.' 


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90 Second Thoughts. 

* Would you ?* he replies indifferently, as 
if the subject rather bored him; *but it was 
best to be on the safe side, was not it ? at 
least so Burnet said — it was his idea.* 

* His idea !* she echoes irefully ; * and 
pray, what business had he to have an idea 
at all upon the subject ?* 

*You had better ask him,* replies the 
invalid, fretfully, turning his face about 
upon the pillow. ' If you want to make a 
scene with anyone about it, pray let it be 
with him.' A moment later, as she keeps 
a wrathful silence, *As for me,* he says, 
with a little air of dried and withered 
gallantry, * of course I am always charmed 
to receive a lady ; but entre nous, my dear, 
from the little I remembered of the former 
visits that you were good enough to pay 
me, I was afraid we should not amuse 
each other very much, and so I told 

As she still remains speechless, swallow- 


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First Thoughts. 91 

ing down in great gulps her mortification, 
he turns his face, which in his ill-humour 
he has averted, so as again to command a 
view of her humiliated countenance : 

* Do you think,' he says, after attentively 
surveying it awhile, in a voice of almost 
appeal, ' do you think, my dear, that it is 
within the bounds of possibility that you 
could amuse me ?* 

* I think it is most unlikely,' she answers, 
in a low and unsteady voice. After a 
moment, with an honest effort to conquer 
her resentment, and speak naturally and 
amiably, * But though I certainly cannot be 
amusing ' — smiling nervously — ' perhaps I 
may be useful. I have always been accus- 
tomed to be useful. May I try ?' 

* Good Lord ! no !' in a tone of the most 
extreme irritability ; * let me beg of you, 
my dear, not to make the attempt. I 
know nothing in the world I should hate 
so much. How many more useful people ' 


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92 Second Thoughts. 

— with a satirical accent — * do you suppose 
that I want about me ? Have not I 
Burnet, and Mrs. Snii th, and as many 
more as I choose to pay for ? Did you 
think ' — with a sour little laugh — * that I 
sent for you to make my bed and boil my 
arrowroot ? If you did, pray undeceive 
yourself at once.* 

She does not answer ; for indeed to 
such a speech what answer is there to be 
made ? She only stands hopelessly still, 
while her colour keeps shifting from 
frightened white to mortified red, and 
back again. 

* If you could make me laugh \ he 
continues, with a glance of ill-humoured 
impatience at the humbled girl beside him, 
* I am aware, my love, that there is 
nothing in the world more improbable ; 
but if you could — if you could think of 
some racy scandal or fin mot to tell me — 
Gad !' (breaking off suddenly, and rolling 


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First Thoughts^ 93 

his head angrily about on the fine pillow,) 
' the worst of having lived so long is that 
one has heard over and over again every 
good thing that has ever been said !' 

Whilst he is speaking a weak ray of 
young sunshine has stolen through the 
half-closed curtains, and fallen softly on his 
sick and peevish face ; and the boiling 
indignation at the insults piled upon her 
powers of entertainment which has hitherto 
been Gillian*s most prominent feeling — 
Gillian, whose jests have ever been held in 
the little admiring circle at home to be of so 
rare and pungent a quality — gives suddenly 
way to an immense and womanly com- 

* I am afraid I do not know any stories 
that would be likely to amuse you,* she 
answers gently, running over in her head 
her simple stock; * but if you liked, I 
might read to you. Would you mind — 
may I — will you let me — read you some- 


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94 Second Thoughts. 

thing, a — a little — ^grave — a — a — a little 
serious ?* 

Never in her life has she spoken a 
sentence that was so difficult to utter as 
this one, which she now haltingly brings 
forth ; but a sense of its being her duty, 
and a faint remainder of the old self- 
confident notion of her own influence, 
uphold her. But she looks nervously 
down as she speaks, unable to meet the 
tired cynicism of those eyes. 

For a moment there is silence; such a 
long moment, indeed, that she lifts her 
glance to see how her proposition has been 
received. The invalid has raised himself 
a little in bed, and is sitting resting his 
sickly-hued face on his shadowy hand. 

* Thank yoii, my dear,' he says mock- 
ingly, and bowing ; * you are a very good 
girl, and I am exceedingly proud of 
possessing such a daughter ; but if it will 
not hurt your feelings, I must tell you that 


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First Thoughts. 95 

I have the bad taste to be not very fond of 
parsons in petticoats ! I am told — ^and I 
have no reason for doubting it — that there 
is a very active and efficient body of clergy 
at St. Chad's in this very square ; if I require 
their services, you may depend upon my 
sending for them. Can you read French ?* 

' A little/ in a choked voice. 

' We will at least try/ he rejoins, in a 
voice of some alacrity ; ' since you are so 
good as to offer your services, I will 
accept them, though perhaps * — with a dry 
little laugh — *not exactly in the way you 
meant !* 

As he speaks he points to an adjacent 
table littered with foreign reviews, news- 
papers, and yellow-backed novels and 
plays ; and she, rising and going to it, 
under his direction chooses a French 
journal, and returning sits down, also under 
his direction, exactly opposite him, where 
he can nicely observe every shade of 


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96 Second Thoughts, 

expression, every nervous blush and 
mortified contraction that passes over her 
face, and begins to read. 

Gillians French is of about the same 
calibre as that of any other average 
English girl, who, having been but little 
out of her own country, has had small 
opportunities for acquiring conversational 
facility, or mastering idiomatic difficulties. 
It is honest and conscientious as far as it 
goes, but that is not very far. 

The article chosen for her is the 
feuilleton of a newspaper, and is stuffed 
with the dramatic, artistic, and literary 
argot of the day ; crammed with allusions 
to the club-life, theatre-life, to the whole 
social body in fact of Parisian existence, 
and absolutely unintelligible to anyone not 
intimately versed in that society. She 
reads on carefully and painstakingly, if in 
a somewhat parrot-like and monotonous 
voice, as must be the case with anyone 


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First Thoughts. 97 

reading what is only very partially com- 
prehended, through a column and a 

Then, as her auditor has given no sign 
whatever, beyond an occasional slight 
chuckle here and there, the cause of which 
has been invariably quite dark to her, she 
stops, and, looking up, asks in a rather 
frightened voice whether he likes it. 

* Immensely I* he says, smiling ironically ; 
* your accent is unique, my dear, and it is 
evidently all Greek to you ; but, with the 
exception of these two trifling drawbacks, 
nothing can be better.* 

She had rather, though not very con- 
fidently, expected praise — in her past life 
her every action has been so wont to call 
forth encomium ; and at his sneering words 
and tone she lays the paper angrily down, 
and, reddening furiously, says, in a tone of 
concentrated indignation and offence : 

VOL. I. 7 


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98 Second Thoughts. 

* I was always considered to have a very 
good accent at home.' 

* Were you indeed ?' lifting his eyebrows, 
and with the same chill, cynic smile. 

* Fraulein Schwarz, my cousin*s gover- 
ness, always said that she should have 
taken me for a Frenchwoman if she had 
not known.' 

* Did she indeed ? Poor Fraulein 
Schwarz !' 

It is some moments before Gillian can 
recover her voice enough to ask in a 
tolerably good-humoured tone whether she 
shall go on. 

* Not to-day, I think,' he answers, with 
\ a little, ill-natured laugh. * A very little of 

such a treat goes a long way ; we must 
keep some for to-morrow.' 

By a great effort of self-mastery she had 
taken up afresh and reopened the volume. 

At his words she lays it down again, 
with a sigh of wrathful relief. 


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First Thoughts. 99 

* I am inconsolable at having to dismiss 
a lady/ he continues, with an ironical, icy- 
politeness in his small voice and in his 
sick yet sarcastic eyes ; * but if you will 
excuse an invalid's plain speaking, I think, 
my child, that I should be very glad if you 
would leave me/ 

As he speaks, he points with one long, 
wasted hand to the door ; and she, hastily 
rising, passes out, with grey eyes brimming 
and blonde head down-hung ; passes out, 
angered, humbled, diminished past com- 
pare. Whither has that influence, that 
power of impressing those around her, for 
which she has always told herself that she 
was so remarkable, gone ? 


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TWO days pass : the frost goes, 
and the dirty snow melts in the 
square-garden, and shows again the shabby 
brown grass that it has been hiding. 
The iron-hard streets have grown as soft 
as boundless slush can make them. The 
ice-swords have disappeared out of the 
air, and London is all mud and mild- 
ness. Gillian's maid and luggage, who 
turn out to have lost their way and been 
overset in a snow-drift, have arrived ; the 
luggage intact, the maid sobbing. Not 
being of the stuff of which martyrs are 


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First 2[^^ag;'4^f» :' ^.^r^r'^W'- 
made, she has, at the sight of the empty 
house, the charwoman, the brown hoUands, 
tearfully and promptly given warning ; and, 
having expressed her hysterical willingness 
to forfeit her month's wages sooner than 
spend another night in such a place, has 
contemptuously been allowed to depart on 
the instant, and her young mistress remains 
alone. As absolutely alone, indeed, as if 
she were actually the sole denizen and 
care-taker of the silent, swaddled house. 
Two whole days have passed, and not once 
again has she been summoned to her 
father's bedside. A week ago she would 
have thought it impossible that an invalid 
so nearly related to her should not wish for 
her ministrations ; for her who had so 
cleverly and patiently nursed the Squire 
and the children through broken collar- 
bones, and gout, and measles. She would 
have felt sure that there must be some 
mistake. But her one interview has made 


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\b\2i ' '*' ' .•' ' 'S.^ccmd , Thoughts. 

any sharp hit to her self-love seem not only 
possible but abundantly probable. 

Sometimes relief at her immunity is the 
predominant emotion in her mind, but 
oftener lacerated vanity and sore feeling. 

Not once has she been outside the 
doors ; not even for a cheerless constitu- 
tional in the square. She has been too 
much afraid of being out of reach should 
the delayed call for her come. 

She spends the dragging hours chiefly 
in the forlorn, dismantled library ; pro- 
tected from the cold by a large sealskin 
coat; diving under the pendent, ghostly 
sheet that veils the bookcases for fifty 
different books ; emerging from under it 
to dip into, and read, and turn over, and 
taste them by the yellow, London, winter 

At last, on the third day, towards mid- 
afternoon, as she is standing poised high 
up on the library ladder, one hand grasp- 


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First Thoughts. 103 

ing it to steady herself, the other holding 
an open volume, and, for a moment, 
oblivious of her woes, the same staid head 
and decent body that had once before 
appeared there, are again seen in the 
aperture- of the doorway. 

* Is he asking for me ?' cries Gillian, in 
an excited voice, looking round and down 
from her elevation with an animated, if 
rather frightened, face — * does he want 

The nurse looks a little uncertain. 

* I suppose so, ma'am ; at least they 
told me to fetch you !* 

* They P echoes Gillian, with emphasis, 
fixing an austere glance on the counte- 
nance of her interlocutor — * and who are 
they 7 

* Dr. Burnet is here, ma'am,* replies the 
woman, innocently ; * it was he that gave 
me the message.' 

Gillian has come down from her ladder, 


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I04 Second Thoughts, 

and unfastened her coat. At these words 
she begins to rehook it, and sets her foot 
on the lowest ladder-rung, preparatory to 
swarming up again. 

* I shall not come,' she says proudly, 
' and so you may tell the person who sent 

Mrs. Smith looks a little surprised ; but 
as, from the nature of her trade, she is in 
a chronic state of being behind the scenes, 
of seeing the wheels and pulleys of the 
social machine at work, nothing is able to 
astonish her much. 

* I think, ma'am,' she says, with civil 
protest, that, if you will excuse my taking 
the liberty of saying so, it is a pity you 
should not come ! Dr. Burnet is the only 
person who has the least influence over 
the gentleman. I am sure I do not know 
how I should have got on at all but for 

For a moment the girl stands irre- 


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First Thoughts. 105 

solute ; then common sense, who, if you 
give it time enough, mostly makes its 
small, judicious voice heard, resumes its 
sway : 

* Very well !* she replies slowly, and so 
follows, without any remonstrance. 

They enter the sick-room quite noise- 
lessly, having no teasingly rustling gowns 
to announce their presence — so noiselessly 
indeed that neither the invalid nor another 
man, who is standing with his back to 
them, hear their entry. Mr. Latimer is 

* It is deuced hard,* he is saying, in a 
thin, complaining voice, *that I, who have 
always held wit diablerie as the first of 
qualities in women, should have been 
cursed all my life long with a series of 
meek, mawkish inanities in my own 

* I do not think her worst enemy could 
describe Miss Latimer as ** meek," * replies 


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io6 Second Thoughts. 

Burnet, with a rather grim mirth in his 

The words are hardly out of his mouth 
before some sHght movement betrays the 
vicinity of her of whom he speaks, and he 
turns and faces her full. It is physically 
impossible for her not to have heard him. 
Even were it not so, the sharp contempt 
and red scorn of her look would sufficiently 
tell him that she had overheard his obser- 

* Listeners never hear any good of 
themselves, you know,' says the invalid, 
with a little malin laugh. * You may be 
thankful, my dear, that it was nothing 
worse. For my part, if I were you, I 
should take it as a compliment.' 

* I take it as it was meant,' she 
answers incisively ; not deigning another 
look at her foe, but, on the contrary, 
turning her back upon him, and step- 
ping loftily to the bedside. 


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First Thoughts. 107 

* Are you coming to give me another 
French lesson, my child ?' says the old 
man, lifting his sunk and fading eyes 
with a twinkle of pseudo-good-humour 
in them to the ireful gravity of hers. 
* It is a thousand pities, Burnet, that 
you are such a busy man ; here is an 
opportunity that may never occur to you 
again. I must tell you that my daughter 
is an accomplished French scholar : she 
has been frequently mistaken for a French- 
woman — Fraulein Schwarz says so ; is 
not it so — eh, Gillian ?' 

She flushes violently, up to where her 
bright hair first encroaches on her brow, 
and down to where the stiff dead -white 
linen collar clasps her tender live-white 
throat. For a moment she does not speak : 
then with an effort of self-mastery and re- 
solution really heroic in one s o impa tient 
an d proud^ s_she, she says in a pretty 
steady, if low voice, and trying to smile : 


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io8 Second Thoughts. 

* Fraulein Schwarz and I were evi- 
dently mistaken, but we are neither of 
us so foolish as not to wish to improve, 
if you will show us how/ 

He looks disappointed. 

* Pshaw !* he says crossly, turning his 
face to the wall, * I am not so con- 
ceited as to suppose that I can teach a 
woman anything. Gad !* with a chuckle, 
'they have taught me one or two things 
in their day 1' 

As he goes on chuckling for some 
time to himself, and takes no further 
notice of her, she involuntarily looks 
away, sighing ; and most unintentionally 
meets the eyes of Burnet fixed upon 
her with an expression which, were he 
anybody but he, she would greet and 
answer as one of honest compassion and 
sympathy. Since it is he, however, she 
only looks haughtily away. But appa- 
rently he is not daunted by a grey 


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First Thoughts, 109 

eye, nor slain by a fierce look. In a 
moment he is standing at her side by 
the bed. 

*You have not been out of doors 
to-day ?' he says interrogatively, scanning, 
not unkindly, her cheeks, already a little 
paled from their country bloom by vexa- 
tion, discomfort, and lack of fresh air. 


* Nor yesterday ?' 

* Hitherto you have been used to an 
open-air life, have not you ?* 


She drops the niggard monosyllable 
grudgingly. What business has he to be 
catechising her about that good and 
blessed life of hers, from which he, and 
he alone, has reft her ? 

'It is fine to-day,' he says, looking 
towards the window, through which a 
glimpse of cheerful outside shining can 


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no Second Thoughts. 

be caught. * For the moment the winter 
is gone :' there is a touch of spring in 
the air. 

She makes no answer. 

* I think,' he says almost gently, * that 
if you will allow me to advise you, 
I should recommend your taking a 

' Thank you, I have no wish to go 

* You are not used to confinement ; it 
may hurt your health.' 

* I am not afraid.' 

*You may be well spared for half an 

He says it in all good faith, but she 
imagines that she detects a lurking 
sarcasm. . She that in two and a half 
days has never been sent for, or made 
any use of, may be spared for half an 
hour ! It sounds indeed like irony. 

' I have no doubt of that,' she answers 


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First Thoughts. iii 

resentfully — ' or for half a year either, for 
the matter of that.' 

' What are you two whispering about ?' 
says the invalid, fractiously ; * are not you 
aware that the A B C of nursing is not 
to whisper and fidget in a sick-room ? If 
you want to chatter, be so good as to go 
out on the landing/ 

* We are not chattering,* replies Burnet 
calmly, but in a firmer, severer tone than 
is often employed towards his patient ; 
' there is not the smallest applicability in 
the word ; I was simply advising Miss 
Latimer to go out a little into the air.' 

* Do as he bids you, child,' says the old 
man, sharply. Then as she remains 
mutinously, motionlessly silent, he turns 
his heavy head and the tired ill-humour 
of his eyes suspiciously towards her, to see 
the cause of her non-obedience to his 
order. * He is quite right,' he says, look- 
ing at her with a cold, critical scrutiny ; 


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112 Second Thoughts. 

' yo^ grow as yellow as a dandelion. For 
heaven's sake do not play tricks with your 
complexion! What is a woman without 
a complexion worth ? about as much as a 
last year's almanac/ Still she does not 
budge an inch. ' Do not I speak plain ?* 
cries her father, raising his fragile form up 
in the bed, and speaking with intense irri- 
tation. * God bless my soul ! do not let me 
have to say it again ; do as Burnet bids 
you. Go !* 

So stringent a command even she dare 
no longer disobey. She crawls with snail- 
like slowness to the door — a protest in 
every step ; in the carriage of her tossed 
head ; in every line of her indignant back, 
as she turns it to them in walking away. 
Having. reached the door, she turns, and, 
protected from her father's gaze by the 
position of the bed — an old-fashioned four- 
poster — hurls back at Burnet one pregnant 
look of bottomless obstinacy and defiance. 


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First Thoughts. 113 

Had she shaken her fist in his face, it 
would have been a less ladylike, but not 
more distinct promise of future vengeance. 
Safely arrived outside, she stands a 
moment on the landing, and then, deliber- 
ately descending the stairs again, re-enters 
the library, re-dons her sealskin, re-mounts 
the ladder, and re-opens the book that ten 
minutes ago she had hastily left. But 
from the page has somehow gone its 
Lethean power. She cannot again lose 
herself and her vexations in it. She is too 
thoroughly jarred and out of tune. After 
vainly trying for a quarter of an hour to tie 
her attention to one sentence, and ever 
seeing between her and it nothing but a 
couple of unescapable faces, she gives up 
the idle effort ; and slowly leaving her 
high perch, walks listlessly to the window, 
and looks discontentedly out. It is a back 
room, and she has a cheering immediate 
view of mews ; helpers washing a landau 

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114 Second Thoughts. 

that has just come in ; a coachman mount- 
ing the box of a brougham that is just 
going out. Beyond, chimneys, chimneys, 
chimneys ! sordid backs of ugly houses ; 
small and sooty back-yards. She leans 
her elbows on the sill, and sighs heavily 
five or six times. Then, finding that her 
sighs have dimmed the pane, and troubled 
her view of the groom who is dashing 
bucketfuls of cold water at the landau's 
wheels, she takes out her pocket-handker- 
chief and begins dismally to rub it clean 
again. As she does this very slowly, for 
she knows of no occupation that is likely 
to succeed it, and it must therefore be a 
little husbanded, she is still at it when the 
door opens sharply, and some one — Burnet 
— comes briskly in. 

* What, no fire ?' he cries quickly, 
glancing from her to the empty grate and 
back again. * How is this ?' 

* I am not cold,' she answers stiffly, 


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First Thoughts. 115 

though the violet tinges that have super- 
seded and spoilt the young roses in her 
cheeks, and the chilly splendour of the 
end of her nose, give her the lie. 

* You have not been out, then ?' he says, 
in a tone of some surprise. 

* No ; I never had the least intention of 
going,* she answers calmly. 

*And why not? It would have done 
you good !' 

* I felt no inclination,' she answers 
haughtily, *and I d id not recog nise the 
authori ty th at bade me.* 

* Authority!' he repeats hotly. * Pshaw! 
what an extraordinarily wry twist you 
must have in your mind to make you take 
everything by the wrong end !' 

She remains disdainfully mute. 

* What couid it matter to me,' he goes 
on, with impatient angry quickness, * except 
for your own good, whether you went or 
stayed ? Which of us two will it harm most 


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Ii6 Second Thoughts. 

if you injure your health and your digestion 
by confinement and want of exercise ?* 

No answer. A reluctant inner voice is 
indeed telling her that what he says is just 
and sensible, but she would rather die than 
listen to it. 

'What an impossible person you must 
be to live with !* he says, in a rather low 
voice, and more as an ejaculation to him- 
self than as an observation to her, looking 
at her the while steadily and almost com- 

* No one has ever said so before !* she 
cries, shocked. * What right * — turning 
upon him a flaming face and eyes like 
two swords — * have you, a perfect stranger, 
to bring such an accusation against me ?* 

' I speak of you as I have found you,' he 
a fiswers, very quietly ; * invariably uncivil — 
completely irrational.* 

For a moment she is silenced, gasping 
for breath : then she breaks out. 


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First Thoughts. 117 

* Why did you bring me here ?' she 
cries. * What good do I do you ? What 
end do I serve ? What could have been 
your motive ? You must have had a 
motive ; what was it ?' 

She fires off these questions like a flight 
of little darts at him, each one accompanied 
by a look, sharpened and pointed to reach 
the innermost fold of the subtlest heart. 
He looks back at her reflectively. 

* I had a motive,' he answers ; * but you 
are, for reasons best known to yourself, so 
profoundly prejudiced against me, that you 
would not believe it if I told it you !* 

' At least,' she cries impetuously, * I 
must beg of you to give me the chance !' 

* I think not !' he answers slowly ; 
* no— o — o !* (coldly studying her excited 
face) ; * it would be a waste of breath : 
probably some day you will learn it.' 

*Am I of any use or pleasure to any 
living soul here }' she cries trenchantly, 


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ii8 Second Thoughts. 

still thrusting her bitter questions home. 
' Do I nurse him ? do I wait upon him ? 
do I give the least aid or relief to Mrs. 
Smith ?' 

He does not at first answer. Then, 
as her imperious asking eyes insist on 
wrenching a reply, he gives one. 

' Undoubtedly not the least !' 

* Would not anyone else serve as well as 
a butt for him, which is the only office I 
fill }' she goes on, with increased heat. 

* Quite as well !* 

'Then why will you not let me go 
home ?* she cries urgently, tears gathering 
in her voice ; * go back to the people who 
find it possible to live with me,' with an 
offended accent ; * not only so, but find it 
^ difficult to get on without me.' 

He lifts his eyebrows a very little. 

' Are you indeed so indispensable ? Not 
many of us dare call ourselves that !' 

' But I am !* she answers hotly ; * I am 


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First Thoughts, 119 

the mainspring of that household ; what- 
ever is done there is done by me. I can- 
not bear to think/ with a break in her 
voice, *of how badly they are missing 

'Console yourself,' he answers, a little 
ironically ; * probably not half so badly as 
you imagine/ 

Then, seeing that she is going to burst 
forth into indignant rejoinder, he goes 

' I mean no insult to you personally ; but, 
believe me, no one is ever much missed. 
Whenever anyone falls out of the ranks, 
there are always ten to take his place.' 

* That is poor consolation,' she answers 

* It grates on one's self-esteem, he 
replies calmly ; * but all the same it is so ; 
a hundred times in my professional ex- 
perience I have seen it.' As he speaks 
he walks towards the door. *Well,' he 


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I20 Second Thoughts, 

says, turning as he reaches it, ' it is of 
course optional with you to go or stay. 
You know what my advice is, and I equally 
know how absolutely without weight with 
you that advice is. Good-evening !* 


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/^'^ ILLIAN does not go; she stays. 
^^^ A fortnight has passed. Use is 
everything, and it seems to her now as 
if for the larger half of her life she had 
been waited on by a charwoman, and 
had had her food fetched from a cook-shop. 
For the invalid has obstinately declined 
to monter his establishment again even 

* You were all so determined that I was 
going to die at once,* he says sarcastically, 
' that I thought I would save my successor 
a great deal of trouble. I have done him a 


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122 Second Thoughts. 

good turn, and I can assure you that I 
have not the least notion of undoing it 
again !' 

So the chairs, tables, chandeliers, and 
bookcases still abide in their ghostly- 
shrouds ; the naked stairs still echo under 
every falling foot ; and Gillian moves, the 
only live-coloured thing among them. At 
somebody's orders, indeed — she forbears 
from inquiring whose — a small upstairs 
sitting-room has been made habitable for 
her. There a fire burns ; thither unex- 
plained pot-plants come, and there the girl 
sits alone most of the short yet long 
January days, waiting to be sent for to the 
sick-room ; waiting, waiting ! 

Sometimes for a whole day, or even two, 
the summons she is expecting never comes, 
and she sits drearily stitching, absently 
reading, mopingly thinking from breakfast 
to bed-time. Sometimes, on the other hand, 
she is kept prisoner for interminable hours 


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First Thoughts. 123 

by the side of the sick-bed, hearing little 
godless tales that shock and do not amuse 
her ; nervously reading aloud unknown 
books in unfamiliar tongues, until voice fails 
and eyes ache ; trying, seldom judiciously, 
to put in words in season, and being in- 
variably baffled and routed in the attempt, 
and finally being dismissed with ironical 
thanks and sarcastic compliments, and 
returning to her solitude with the dispirited 
conviction that all her wear and tear of 
mind, body, and temper have been abso- 
lutely of no use at all. One ray of light 
has, indeed, cheered her darkness, in the 
shape of the letters she has received from 
home. If anything could reinstate her in 
her self-esteem, it would be they. Plain- 
tive records of little domestic disasters, 
all dating from and owing their origin 
to her departure from her uncle. Warm- 
hearted schoolgirl gushes from Emilia, a 
scrap of laborious, loving roundhand from 


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124 Second Thoughts. 

little Dick. Her first impulse on receiving 
them is a triumphant longing to show 
them to Burnet — Burnet, whose eyebrows 
she had seen so insolently rise at her 
statement of her own indispensability. 
Reflection shows her that such a course 
would be undignified, puerile, impossible ; 
but the consciousness of having such a 
large stone by her to sling at him, in case 
of further incredulity, makes her distinctly 
less uncivil to him for three days after 
their arrival. One afternoon she is sitting 
beside the sick-bed ; and as its occupant 
has not spoken for a quarter of an hour, 
and his eyes are closed, she imagines that 
he has fallen into one of those faint, fitful 
dozes that ease the heaviness of an in- 
valid's long day. Being, as she thinks, 
off duty, her look is resting with an 
unconscious keenness of wonder, specula- 
tion, and pity on the faded discontent, 
the satiric puckers — satiric even in sleep — 


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First Thoughts. 125 

of his small sharp face. She starts with 
a frightened jump at the sound of his 
voice, thoroughly awake, and not at all 

* Might I take the liberty, my dear, of 
asking the cause of the microscopic scrutiny 
with which you are favouring me T 

' I — I was only wondering about you \ 
she answers, stammering. 

* Very good of you to take the trouble, 
I am sure,* he answers sourly ; * but I 
think, if it is all the same to you, I had 
almost as soon that you would leave off.* 

* I was thinking no harm,* she answers 
steadily, though not disrespectfully ; * I 
have no objection to telling you what 
I was thinking ; I was only wondering 
how it was that you, who are so absolutely 
impenetrable to anyone's influence, should 
be so docile to the slightest hint of — of — 
Dr. Burnet's.* She speaks the two last 
words with a slight lagging hesitation, as 


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126 Second Thoughts. 

if her tongue had a distaste for the sound 
of them. 

' H'm ! is that all ?* 

*What is the secret of his great 
influence with you ?' she says, gathering 
boldness, her curiosity getting the upper 
hand of that timidity which is indeed no 
part of her character. 

' Since you are so anxious to know,' he 
replies crossly, * though I confess myself, 
unable to see what business it is of yours, 
let me tell you, that he is the one Jionest 
man I have ever met !' 

She is silent for a moment, reflecting ; 
then — 

* Surely you have been unlucky,' she 
says, fixing her healthy limpid eyes 
incredulously upon him, * if in the whole 
course of your long life you have met only 
one honest man T 

• My long life T he repeats pettishly ; 
* I am much obliged to you, my dear, but 


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First Thoughts. 127 

not so very monstrously long after all ; 
you need not make me out such a 
Methuselah f 

For the moment Gillian is rebuffed, but 
presently she returns to the charge. 

* But how has he shown his honesty ?* 
she asks, a little persistently. 

* Good God, Gillian !* replies her father, 
in a fury, *what do you mean by putting 

me through such a d d catechism ? 

'pon my soul I will not stand it !' 

There is no doubt that the subject must 
be dropped, and so Gillian sees. She 
remains dissatisfiedly mute, and there is 
no sound save the roll of brisk carriages 
in the square, the sharp twitter of cockney 
sparrows, and the bell of St. Chad's 
ringing to afternoon prayer. It is the 
sick man himself who by-and-by resumes 
the conversation. 

* Perhaps, ma belle' he says, in a voice 
which sufficiently shows that his temper 


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128 Second Thoughts. 

has not yet recovered from the ruffling 
which her point-blank questions had 
caused it, * you yourself might condescend 
to feel a little indebted to a person who 
had made you a present of ten additional 
years of life !* 

Her eyes have wandered absently away 
to the half-veiled window — to the toilet- 
table, with its elaborate load of beautifying 
apparatus, its unguents and essences. 

At his words they return, interested and 
attentive, to his face. A question hovers 
on the edge of her lips; but a timely 
remembrance of the ill reception of her 
last inquiries makes her content herself 
with looking interrogative. 

* Ten years ago,' says the invalid, in 
a cross and grudging voice, * since you 
must know all about it, all the first men 
in London had given me up. They 
said, *' You are a dead man !" I said, 
*' Begging your pardons, I am nothing 


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First Thoughts. 129 

of the kind." ** We give you three 
months !" they said. Only an operation 
could save me, and not one of them — I 
give you my word of honour — not one / 
of them had the pluck to undertake it \ ' 

He pauses, and petulantly whisks with | 
his pocket-handkerchief at a fly that has 
settled on the discoloured marble of his 
sick brows. 

' Do not go on if it tires you,' she 
says gently, but he takes not the smallest 
notice of her polite solicitude. 

*Just at that moment,* he continues, 
in the same exasperated voice, *an acci- 
dent brought me acquainted with Burnet. 
I explained my case to him ; he — I sup- 
pose you will allow me to spare you 
the surgical details — or perhaps,' with 
a crabbed laugh, * you insist upon having 
them in full too ? Well, the long and 
the short of it was, that he pulled me 
through, and I can assure you that I 

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130 Second Thoughts. 

was vastly obliged to him, and with 
your permission take the liberty of being 
so still/ 

A pause. By-and-by : 

*That was not honesty' says Gillian, 
doggedly, * that was skill ; I do not see 
how that proves his honesty!' 

* Very well, my dear, very well \ re- 
plies her father, crossly, plucking at the 
sheets, with his forehead puckered into 
a fretful frown, and his pale lips irri- 
tably quivering ; * then he is not honest, 
he is dishonest ; he is the most dis- 
honest rogue out of Newgate ! you may 
tell him so if you choose. Now is your 
time — here he comes !' 

In effect, whilst he has been speaking 
the door has opened, and Burnet has 
appeared on his daily visit. 

' Tell him what ?' he says composedly, 
looking from the malign amusement of 
the little old man's withered face, to 


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First Thoughts. 131 

the scarlet discomfiture of his blooming 

* He is all attention : now is your 
time, Gillian!' repeats the invalid, chuck- 
ling ; ' you can never have a better 
opportunity. What ! are you going ?' — 
for she has fled to the door — * nay, 
that is a pity ! You have always been 
wishing to be able to amuse me ; you 
were just beginning to succeed.' 

Long after she has reached the haven of 
her little sitting-room, his small, mocking 
voice still sounds in her ears, cold and 
stinging. Though no one is there to see 
it, her face still burns and smarts with 
that agonizing blush. It seems to prevent 
her reading or working, or occupying 
herself in any way. It i§ occupation 
enough in itself. She lies in a low 

causeuse before the fire ; her flax head 


thrown back on the cushion, and her two 
slim hands covering her face. She does 


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132 Second Thoughts. 

not remove them even at the sound of the 
opening door. Doubtlessly it is the min- 
istering charwoman bringing her reading- 
lamp, for the dark has fallen. It is only 
when her ears become aware of two sets of 
footsteps, and of a rustling gown — char- 
women never rustle — that she lifts her 
head and looks up. A girFs light figure is 
coming towards her in the firelight. In a 
moment she has recognised one of the 
people out of her former life — that already, 
though it ended only a fortnight ago, 
seems so wondrously - far off — has sprung 
up and flung two most welcoming arms 
round the neck of Sophia Tarlton. 

* You poor soul !* cries the latter, in a 
surprised voice, partially smothered as well 
as surprised through the violence of 
Gillian's embrace, 'what a very low ebb 
you must be at, to be so dreadfully glad to 
see even me !' 

* Was not I always glad to see you ?' 


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First Thoughts. 133 

cries Gillian, loosing her hold, while her 
mind reverts to the past ; and she is fain 
to admit to herself, with a feeling of aston- 
ishment, the extremely lukewarm nature of 
her joy on the occasion of the visits of any 
and every member of the Tarlton family. 

*You were glad,' rejoins the other, 
shrewdly, *but not nearly so glad. Do 
you know that at first I thought you must 
have mistaken me for some one else ; are 
you quite sure that you know who I am T 

* Quite sure !* replies Gillian, laughing a 
little confusedly. Then, to prove that there 
is no mistake, she adds, ' How is Anne ?* 

* She is very well,' replies Anne's sister, 
indifferently. * I wanted her to come with 
me here to-day, but she is gone instead to 
Paddington, to see a supposed admirer off. 
Between you and me, he tried his best to 
dissuade her, but you know poor Anne's 
ways! I cannot understand that sort of 
thing, can you } I have such a notion of 


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134 Second Thoughts. 

making one's self respected, have not you ? 
Anne has no self-respect.* 

She gives this last damning sisterly- 
verdict with a cheerful voice and an un- 
clouded countenance. 

* How is Mrs. Tarlton ? How is the 
General ?* says Gillian, hardly heeding her 
visitor's affectionate speech, still broadly 
smiling at the thought of being again in 
actual contact with a bit of her home-life, 
and lovingly uttering some of the familiar 
names, even of some of the least dear. 

* They have not. spoken to each other 
for a week,' says Sophia, making a face ; 
* is not it puerile of them ? We are all 
up at Garland's Hotel for a fortnight ; 
they send messages to each other by the 
waiters at dinner ! We are so ashamed of 

Both girls sit down, and there is a 
moment's pause, while Sophia is looking 
inquisitively round. 


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First Thoughts. 135 

* Come, you are not so much to be 
pitied !' she says, when her sharp eyes have 
made the tour of the room. * I think I 
expected a fireless garret : you have arm- 
chairs, flowers ' — enumerating the little 
details of luxury, as her look falls on each 
in turn — * I suppose the gardener sent you 
up the flowers from home !* 

* I suppose so !' replies Gillian, in a rather 
confused voice. 

Then, her natural veracity getting the 
upper hand, she adds, hastily : 

* No ; they did not come from home ; 

they came from I do not quite know 

where they came from.* 

* And you never asked T in a tone of 
alert and inquisitive interest. 


* You cannot even guess T 

* No— o — o.' Then, somewhat im- 
patiently : * What does it matter where 
they came from, now that they are here "i 


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136 Second Thoughts. 

not but what/ eying them rather spite- 
fully, * I could do extremely well without 

A short silence. 

*And you will stay here/ says Sophia, 
leaning forward, and shading her unpretty 
but acute face from the fire with her muff, 
• until ' 

* Yes ; I suppose so, until ' replies 


Neither of them says until what. There 
are things that, though it is not brutal to 
think, it is brutal to say. 

* And what will you do then T 

* What shall I do then T cries Gillian, 
excitedly. 'Why, what shall I be likely 
to do } Why, put myself into the very 
first train, of course, and go home ; I am 
afraid they are all going to rack and ruin 
already without me ! Have you seen 
them "i Do they seem very wretched T 

* I lunched there on Wednesday,' replies 


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First Thoughts, 137 

Sophia, rather slowly ; * they all looked 
much as usual, except that Jane sat at the 
head of the table, and struck me as taking 
the lead a good deal ; but, of course,' 
seeing Gillian's countenance fall a little, 
* one cannot judge in the least by a casual 
half-hour like that/ 

* Of course not !' very quickly. * I am 
so glad,' with a touch of her old self- 
esteem, * that they get on at all.' 

* You are looking better than I expected,' 
says Sophia, presently, still shading her 
face from the blaze, while she surveys with 
the keen and unenvious admiration of a 
completely plain woman the hotly flushed 
face and beautiful vexed eyes of her corn- 
panion ; * I was afraid that the sitting up 
at night might have knocked you up.' 

* I never sit up at nights,' replies Gillian, 

* The day nursing, then } — the confine- 


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138 Second Thoughts. 

ment to a sick-room ? — the continued 
standing ?* 

* Sometimes, for two days together, I 
never enter the sick-room/ 

Sophia raises her eyebrows. 

* Then what is the use of your being 
here ?^ 

* There is no use/ 

* But whose fault is it ?' in a tone of 
surprised curiosity. 

' You had better ask Dr. Burnet. Per- 
haps,' with an extremely caustic accent — 
* perhaps you are not aware that he is 
master here ?' 

' But why should he try to keep you 
out T cries Sophia, with blunt common 
sense — * what object could he have }:' 

* His motives,* replies Gillian, stiffly, 
*are best known to himself. I have no 
wish to meddle with them.* 

There is such a pregnant spitefulness 


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First Thoughts. 139 

in her tone, that Sophia breaks into a 
laugh : 

' You certainly do not think very highly 
of them !' After reflecting for a few 
moments, ' But you see,* in a consoling 
tone, 'however great his influence with 
your father may be, he could not prevent 
his wishing to see you — he could not pre- 
vent his sending for you !' 

* He did not send for me,' cries Gillian, 
almost loudly, sitting bolt upright in her 
chair, and giving vent at last to the flood 
of bottled mortification and ire that has 
•been seething and boiling in her breast for 
fourteen angry days — ' he did not want to 
see me ! I bore him inexpressibly ! I 
could not have believed,* with a slight 
quiver in her voice, * that I ever could 
have bored anyone as I do him! No, it 
was Dr. Burnet's doing ; it was his fiat 
that I should come, so of course I came.* 

* And he fetched you himself T says 


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140 Second Thoughts. 

Sophia, very slowly, opening her shrewd 
eyes ; and with a long-drawn breath of 
astonishment — ' a man in such practice as 
he ! for I must tell you, my dear, that we 
are looked upon as crassly ignorant not 
to have heard of him — in fact our good 
health is our only excuse. How did he 
afford to waste twenty-four hours in cap- 
turing you ?* 

Whether there is something in the word 
'wasted* that jars on Gillian's still thriving 
self-esteem, or whether the whole frame 
and tone of the sentence are displeasing 
to her, there is certainly a good deal of 
acrimony in her voice, as she answers 
hotly : 

* I do not know why everyone has se 
donnd le mot to sing his praises. I am not 
a prejudiced person' (a short smile steals 
over Miss Tarl ton's features) ; ' I only 
know that here is a perfect stranger, who 
has, by means best known to himself, 


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First Thoughts. 141 

obtained the most complete ascendency- 
over my father; while I, his own daughter, 
am absolutely nothing — less than nothing ; 
ordered about like a dog, at everybody's 
beck, and afraid to call my soul my 
own !* 

There is something so very unamenable 
to anybody's orders, so thoroughly refractory 
in her whole appearance as she makes this 
statement, in her lofty carriage, her reso- 
lute lips and blazing eyes, that again 
Sophia smiles. 

' It must be at least a new sensation !* 
she says slily. 

Then, rising from her chair, and begin- 
ning to rehook the fur collar round her 
neck — 

* Well, I suppose I must be going ! I 
half expected that Anne would have 
joined me here ; but I suppose, poor dear, 
she is still sobbing on the platform at 
Paddington ! An revoir P 


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* A moment's halt — a momentary taste 
Of being from the well amid the waste ; 
And, lo ! the phantom caravan has reached 
The nothing it set out from — oh, make haste !' 

THE fortnight has rolled itself out 
into a month. January lies stretched 
on her death-bed, and snowdrop-crowned 
^ Febru ary stands a-tiptoe, waiting to step 
into her departing sister's shoes. 

In this world something is always 
standing ready to shove something else 
off into the dark. Down at north- 
country Marlowe, the winter aconites, 


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First Thoughts. 143 

with their little green shoulders shrugged 
up to their ears to keep the cold out, 
make the brown borders gay. But here 
in the square-garden, no small cheerful 
yellow face shows itself smiling through 
the sooty smutty earth-crust. The days 
haste past, monotonous and speedy — for 
monotony is ever quick. If we would 
fain make our tiny life taste long, we 
should do something different on each 
of our scanty days. At the end of twenty 
years we should know how Methuselah 

Gillian has seen eight and twenty grey 
days race past her, no one of them either 
much better or much worse than its 
fellows. Occasionally, indeed, the grey 
has been freaked and speckled with spots 
of black when, for instance, the knife of 
her father's caustic tongue has cut deeper 
than its wont, or she has returned with 
bristled pride and bleeding vanity from 


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144 Second Thoughts. 

some sharper than usual brush with 
Burnet. For, with a resolute consistency 
that would have raised her to eminence 
in any profession, she has maintained 
her attitude of overt enmity and hardly 
less overt suspicion towards her father's 
doctor. And he, being perhaps by nature 
of a temper hardly more suave or meek 
than her own, has long given up all 
attempt to conciliate her, and now meets 
her readily witTi her own weapons of 
sour looks, captious answers, and sting- 
ing repartees. And meanwhile the cause 
that has brought them into contact is 
slowly but most surely disappearing, 
journeying inevitably from the is to the 
is not. 

Some of us give up our life at one 
throw, tossing it to Death, crying, ' Since 
you must have it, take it all, and at once f 
Others fight it out, little inch by little 
inch, clutching at the last poor rag with 


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First Thoughts. 145 

tight-clinging fingers. And this is how 
Gillians father is going. From day to 
day there is perhaps not much change to 
be noticed ; the same tedious routine of 
invalid duties wearisomely gone through. 
But looking back a week or a fortnight, 
it is seen that many little practices, 
involving even a small exertion, have been 
discontinued. The sick palate turns with 
ever greater distaste from the light and 
delicate food. The Sea of Death is 
patently encroaching on the shores of 
Lifers lessening continent. It is true that 
he still has his French novels read aloud 
to him ; that he still passes ironical 
encomiums on his daughter s accent, and 
seldom fails to remind her of Fraulein 
Schwarz's unfortunate compliment ; that 
he still chuckles to his pillow over the 
memory of his primeval bonnes fortunes. 
But every day the chuckle waxes fainter ; 
the portion of Zola and Belot smaller ; the 
VOL. L 10 


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146 Second Thoughts. 

venom of his sneers at his patient daughter 
less. For, in the case of anything so frail 
and perishing and ruined, who would not 
be patient ? Even impatient Gillian. 
Whether it be her patience or the pleasure 
that such sick eyes must reap from the 
sight of her strength and bloom, or the 
discovery that she never rustles or jingles 
as she walks, that her hands are always 
cool and clever, and her young arms 
strong and willing — certain it is that, as 
the days go on, she is summoned ever 
oftener and oftener, and for ever longer 
periods to his side ; dismissed ever more 
and more grudgingly. And now that 
the end draws near, she is scarcely ever 

It is true, indeed, that the invalid still 
puts himself to a good deal of trouble to 
prove to her how absolutely null and void 
her influence with him is. He still osten- 
tatiously postpones her opinion to that of 


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First Tlwughts. 147 

his doctor; still takes a malicious, though 
perhaps partially aesthetic pleasure in 
calling the splendid red to her cheeks, and 
the daggers to her great eyes, by making 
her render a furious obedience to some 
mandate or — much more often — recom- 
mendation of Burnet's. Often has she 
been dismissed from her duties with legs 
trembling from long standing, with hot 
head and aching eyes, but still foaming 
with rage at having obtained her release — 
rest, food, and necessary fresh air — from 
the hand of her enemy. For Gillian is 
nothing if not consistent, and he is her 
enemy still. 

Latterly, ever since Burnet's patient and 
Gillian's father has begun . distinctly to 
decline, and Burnet's daily visits Jiave con- 
sequently multiplied from one to two, and 
sometimes even three, they have been a 
great deal in each other's company. Often 
her small and capable hands have met his 



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148 Second Thoughts, 

in raising, or turning, or giving some new 
ease of posture to him that is in the un- 
ending restlessness of dying. Often their 
grave eyes ask and answer each other's 
questions, when speech would fret the sick 
man's irritable ear, or chase his feverish 
sleep. Often, too, outside his door, they 
have talked together low and quickly ; the 
one giving the directions which he knows 
will be carried out with so punctilious a 
minuteness, the other listening with teach- 
able gravity, and heedfuUy laying them to 
heart. And yet, behind and under all 
their hand-meetings, eye-speakings, and 
amiable dialogues, there is on both sides 
a mutual understanding that all this is 
without prejudice to the real and genuine 
attitude of their minds towards each other ; 
that this is but the truce of God. Behind 
it, behind it all, this forced intimacy and 
compelled civility, still flourishes the old 
hostility, ready and waiting to be taken up 


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First Thoughts. 149 

by either or both on the first convenient 
opportunity. Probably that opportunity is 
now not far off. 

It is the 1st of February — one of those 
gentle, soft-breathed days that sometimes 
come in suave bands of two and three, in 
that month of promises which March so 
rarely performs. The air that outside is 
whispering sweetly to the young hazels, 
and waking snowdrop and crocus out of their 
earthy sleep, weighs faint and heavy in 
the shut sick-room. Gillian has been on 
her legs for the best part of a day and a 
night ; for despite the presence of the 
nurse, her father's fading eyes querulously 
follow, his dry lips crossly ask the reason 
of her every exit. 

He has been worse all day ; more full of 
unrest, more feeble, spent. His dwindling 
stock of strength has been still further 
reduced by the exhaustion consequent 
on a long interview with h's lawyer on 


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150 Second Thoughts, 

the day before, an interview wished for 
by himself, and much encouraged by 

It is evening now — eight o'clock. The 
lights of broughams and hansoms carrying 
people out to dinner flash past, and the 
lamps make red points at regular intervals 
round the dark square. For the moment 
Gillian is not wanted. She has slipped 
away to her own room ; and after standing 
drowsily at the open window for a few 
minutes, with eyelids continually down- 
dropping in utter mastering sleepiness over 
her eyes, has exchanged her gown for a 
dressing-gown, and has thrown herself on 
the bed, promising herself to awake in half 
an hour. 

In an instant she is heavily asleep ; one 
of those bottomless slumbers across which 
the hours race without leaving a mark. 
If she is left to herself it will be morning — 
high noon perhaps — ere she wake. But 


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First Thoughts. 151 

she is not fated to sleep her sleep out. 
At what hour of the night she knows not ; 
but there comes a moment when a noise of 
some kind first sets her dreaming ; then 
mixes madly with her dream ; then breaks 
it — a noise which, as she sits up and tries 
to clear her muddled senses, resolves itself 
into a quick and imperative knocking at 
her door. 

In an instant she has sprung off the 
bed, and run barefoot to open it. The 
candle she had left burning on her table 
is still alight, though it is burnt down 
in the socket. By its weak light she sees 
Burnet's face — always grave — but now with 
an undefinable new gravity on it, meeting 

* Come,* he says curtly. 

* Is he worse ?* she cries, brought back 
in a moment to perfect wakefulness by his 
one pregnant word. 

' Yes.* 


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152 Second Thoughts. 

* Is it — is It — the end ?' with a little 
break in her voice. 

* Yes; 

Without another syllable she follows 
him. The sick-room door is wide open ; 
and through it a potent draught of air 
meets them as they enter. All the three 
windows are flung wide ; and through 
them the chilly night-gusts freely drive. 
The nurse stands by the bedside cease- 
lessly waving a large fan, and yet all this 
air is impotent to give ease to one poor 
pair of toiling lungs. 

Raised by many high pillows into what 
is virtually a sitting posture, the sick man 
lies with eyes awake and conscious, and 
parted lips dry and parched by the passage 
of the labouring breath. It seems as if 
to 6ach breath a heavy stone were tied, 
so laboursomely does he drag it up. And 
none can help him with that dread 


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First Thoughts. 153 

Gillian stands at the bed-foot, her hands 
painfully locked together, her large bright 
eyes — the sleep driven far from them — 
fixed, in all the astonied fear of one that 
looks on death for the first time, on the 
painful fight going on before her. Every 
now and then she sharply draws a long 
gasping breath, with a sort of unconscious 
feeling that that may help him. She is 
not aware that great tears of uttermost 
pity have stolen into her eyes, and are 
dropping down her cheeks. She is almost 
as much startled as if one had spoken to 
her from among the dead, when she hears 
her fathers voice addressing her; slowly, 
indeed, with many breaks between, but 
still the same voice that had sneeringly 
eulogised her French accent three days 

* Pray — do not — cry — Gillian ! no one — 
has — ever won — anything from me by 
tears ! Smiles — my dear — smiles !* 


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154 Second Thoughts, 

There is even a streak of the old cox- 
combry in the almost extinguished voice. 
She cannot bear it. She feels as if her 
own breast were bursting in two. In a 
moment she has fled, without noise, from 
the room ; and sitting down on the top- 
most step of the stairs, outside, covers her 
face with her hands, and sobs. Perhaps 
the sound of her own weeping has 
hindered her hearing Burnetts footsteps 
following her. At all events, when she 
looks up, she finds him standing beside 

* Cannot you do anything T she cries, 
almost fiercely, and shuddering, as through 
the open door comes, without ceasing, the 
sound of that weary labouring and the 
noise of the useless winnowing of the 

' Nothing !* 

* Are you utterly powerless ?* 
' Utterly !' 


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First Thoughts. 155 

' What is the use of your art, then ?' she 
cries with passionate unreason, raising her 
head, with its little tossed hair-tendrils fall- 
ing untidy and soft about her brow, and 
the drowned stars of her impatient suffer- 
ing eyes to his face. 

' It never pretended to be as strong as 
death f he answers sadly. 

* Oh, how cruel it is !* she cries, throwing 
her head down on her knees. * If it is so 
bad now, what must it be when one loves 
a person ? You know ; it is your trade 
— what must it be }' 

* It will soon be over,' he replies, evading 
that answerless question. 

' Is there no one in the whole world that 
loves him ?* she says, with a tone of keen 
pain, almost remorse, in her broken voice. 
* Oh, how thankful I should be if there 
were only a dog that was sorry for him !' 

As she speaks, she looks up again with a 
sort of appeal into her companion's serious 


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156 Second Thoughts. 

eyes, half hoping that he will say he is sorry. 
She would probably call him a hypocrite if 
he did, but still she is angry with him and 
disappointed that he does not. Instead : 

* If you are so completely upset,' he says 
rather coldly, *you had better not come 
back. I called you because, as he is still 
perfectly conscious, I thought that there 
might be something he wished to say to 
you ; but I cannot have his last moments 

There is something in his tone that at 
once opens again the passage that seemed 
closing in her throat ; that almost dries the 
tears that have already fallen on her 
cheeks. In an instant she has risen to her 
feet, and stands beside him, tall and still. 

* I am not upset, '^ she answers, with a 
great struggle to be calm, *only it is the 
first time that I have ever seen anyone 
die ; and though it is now such a matter 
of course to you, perhaps there was a time 


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First Thoughts. 157 

when it would have moved even you a 

So saying she passes at once back 
into the sick-room, and takes up her 
former situation at the bed-foot. He at 
the bed-head, she at the bed-foot ; and . 
so they stand through the watches of the 
long night. Sometimes their eyes meet 
and interrogate each other : sometimes 
he looks at her when she is not looking 
at him. Her attitude is always the same ; 
the hands painfully squeezing each other ; 
the forehead gathered into distressful 
puckers ; the throat- — usually, when he 
has seen her, so stiffly guarded by a 
well-starched linen collar — ^gleaming fairly 
from the open neck of her dressing-gown ; 
the hair, generally in so tight and sleek 
a bondage, drooping loosely about her 
ears, in itself entirely altering the 
character of her face, and making her 
look twenty times as meek as he had 


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158 Second Thoughts. 

ever imagined that she could look. And 
the hours wear on ; the night gusts 
blowing the curtains into frolic shapes ; 
the fan monotonously waving ; the tussle 
for a little breath — only a little breath — 
for ever raging. At last there comes a 
moment when the night and the morning 
meet ; when the wind cuts coldly, and 
the candles flare, and that voice, for 
which so little further speech is in store, 
is once more heard. 

* Where — is — Burnet ?' 
' I am here !' 

' I suppose ' — turning a little in the bed, 
as though he would turn his unseeing eyes 
in the direction whence the voice came 
— * I suppose — that the — performance — 
is nearly — over ?* 

* Very nearly.' 

(Can it be Burnet's harsh voice that 
speaks ? — speaks in tones of such pity- 
ing gentleness, as if he would fain take 


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First Thoughts. 159 

the sting out of the bitter sentence it 
has to utter.) 

There is a little pause ; then the 
dying man's meagre hand blindly travels 
towards his one friend's, and faintly 
grasps it. 

' But — for — you — the curtain — would 
have — fallen — ten — years ago !' 

Burnet does not answer in words, but 
his vigorous right hand kindly closes on 
the nerveless fingers, and delicately presses 

* I — wish — you could — give me — 
another — ten !' 

These are the last articulate words 
ever uttered by Thomas Latimer on this 
side of the silence ! 


by Google 


NOW he is buried ; followed to his 
grave among Kensal Green's mul- 
titudinous miscellaneous dead by Squire 
Marlowe, whom he_has cutjbi:^fteen years, 
and by a great many empty carriages. All 
that is now left of him is the will, in which 
he states his wishes as to the disposi- 
tion of the two hundred and odd thou- 
sand pounds which he would like to 
have, taken with him. and could not. 
His survivors have but lately been put 
in possession of its conditions ; and two 


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First Thoughts. i6i 

of them, the Squire and Gillian, have 
for the best part of two hours been 
hotly debating them, and are now, at 
four o^clock in the afternoon, much where 
they were when they set out. 

* It is monstrous !' cries the Squire 
for the sixteenth time, fussing up and 
down the room on his short legs, with 
his grey hair staring like a horse's coat 
on a cold day, and his hands thrust into 
the pockets of the easy old shooting- 
clothes for which he has already hastened 
to exchange the decorous mourning suit 
in which he took that dismal drive this 
morning in a coal-black mourning-coach, 
drawn by two long-tailed inky steeds. 
* Such a will could not stand ! I have 
never had much to say to lawyers, 
thank God! but it does not require 
lawyers to tell one what common sense 
and common justice mean. I do not 
believe there is a jury in England who 


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1 62 Second Thoughts. 

would not bring a man in of unsound 
mind for making it !' 

* If all the juries in Great Britain and 
Ireland pronounced him mad/ replies 
Gillian, firmly, *they would not convince 
me. He was as sane as I am.' 

She is standing long and craped beside 
the fire ; a foot on the fender, a black 
elbow on the chimney-piece. 

* Stuff and nonsense !' cries the Squire, 
quickening his fidgety walk almost into a 
run, and wrought up into a state of mind 
when he actually dares to have an Opinion 
of his own adverse to that expressed by 
his niece. * Would a man in his right 
senses have kept his wife's — my poor 
sister's — picture with its face turned to the 
wall for twenty years, and then left it to 
me, saying that he hoped I should get 
more satisfaction out of it than he had 
ever got out of the original ? Would a 
man in his right senses have done that ?' 


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First Thoughts, 163 

But Gillian only gives a dogged shake 
with her blonde head. 

* He was no more out of his senses than 
I am,' she repeats. 

* Well, well, we will see about that — we 
will see about that,' rejoins the Squire, 
evasively ; even now — so strong is habit — 
not daring to persist in overt contradiction 
of one whose yea has been his yea, and 
her nay his nay for six submissive years. 
* We will have the best legal opinion with- 
out an hour s delay. Plank is our man, 
Saun dgfs says ; he is the best man at the ^ 
Equity Bar ' — Saunders is the family solici- 
tor. * He, Saunders, has already written to 
ask him to appoint an hour for a consulta- 

There is a slight pause. Gillian is 
looking absently down at her own nicely 
pointed foot, and sliding it softly to and 
fro along the fender-top. 

* After all,' she says slowly and without 

II — 2. 

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164 Second Thoughts. 

looking up, * I suppose that he had a right 
to do as he liked with his own ; to leave 
his money to whom, and shackled with 
what conditions he chose. It is not' — 
speaking with a heavy emphasis, and lift- 
ing her eyes, darkened by an expression of 
the profoundest resentment — * it is not him 
that I blame !' 

* I never was so deceived in a fellow in 
my life,' says the Squire, ruefully. * I 
thought I knew an honest man when I 
saw him. He had an honest eye, not 
afraid to look you in the face ; he gave 
you a good, honest hand-grip when he 
shook hands with you. I wish' — taking 
one of his own broad hands out of his 
pocket, and repentantly surveying it — * I 
wish I had not shaken hands with him.' 

* You know, dear,' says Gillian, in a 
caressing voice that still conveys a very 
distinct reproach in it — an unmistakably 
told-you-so voice — * you know that, from the 


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First Thoughts. 


first moment I saw him, I told you that he 
had a bad countenance ; you pooh-poohed 
me as prejudiced. I am sure I do not 
want to say anything that will make you 
feel more unhappy than you do already ; 
but I leave you to judge whether the 
result has justified me.' 

* It has — it has !' replies her uncle, re- 
morsefully. * I am sure, Gill,' with a 
humble little attempt at self-defence, 'it 
is not often that I set up my opinion 
against yours ; generally what you say, I 
swear to.' 

* I am sure, dear,' rejoins the girl, laying 
her white hand on his shoulder with the 
protecting action of a stooping angel, * that 
I have no wish to bias your opinion in 
matters in which it is likely to be more 
valuable than my own ; but I think that 
in matters of instinct, if you would allow 
yourself to be guided by me, you might 
perhaps make fewer mistakes.' 


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1 66 Second Thoughts, 

* I will — I will !' in a tone of almost 
tearful contrition ; then, with a sudden 
wondering return to his original text, ' I 
cannot take it in yet ! I never was so 
deceived in a fellow in my life T 

Another pause. Gillian has by this 
time sunk into an arm-chair, and now lies 
there meditatively, with her elbows resting 
on the arms, and the tips of her fingers 
lightly joined together. 

* If they give it against us,' she resumes 
presently, with a slight shrug — * I have a 
presentiment that they will — why, we must 
just return to our old ways. I am not 
proud, dear; I am not above being be- 
holden to you for food and lodging. I 
think' — looking up into his face with an 
affectionate but self-confident smile — * I 
think that I am worth my keep to 

* I should rather think you were !' cries 
he, with emphasis. ' I cannot tell you how 


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First Thoughts. 167 

many times since you have been gone I 
have caught myself saying, ** I will tell 
Gill," ** I will ask Gill," before I could 
pull myself up and remember that there 
was no Gill to ask/ 

* There will always be a Gill to ask for 
the future,* replies she, smiling. 

' I am sure I do not want to complain of 
the children,' he goes on, wrinkling up his 
grizzled eyebrows, and staring down at the 
Persian rug at his feet, with an air of per- 
plexed discomfort. * I suppose they are 
much like other people's ; but it seems 
to me that, since you went, some of 
them are a bit inclined to kick over the 

* Which of them ?' asks the girl sharply, 
sitting upright in her chair, and quickly 
abandoning her pensive attitude : * Jane, 
I am sure !' 

' I have no complaint to make of Jane,' 
he continues irresolutely ; ' she is a fine 


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1 68 Second Thoughts, 

spirited girl ; and I suppose I forget how 
time flies. I have always been in the habit 
of thinking of her as such a complete child/ 

* And so she is f cries Gillian, with some 
warmth ; * only fifteen last August !' 

* She gave me quite a shock the other 
day ; she has had such a grown-up look 
of late. I do not know what she has done 
to herself — what can she have done to 
herself ?' appealing, with a puzzled air, 
to his niece ; but Gillian is biting her lips, 
and keeps a vexed silence. 

* She has been teasing me out of my 
life/ pursues the Squire, resuming his 
fussy constitutional up and down the 
carpet, * to send away Fraulein Schwarz. 
She says she is past the age you were 
when you left the schoolroom.' 

* There is not the slightest parallel 
between the cases !' cries Gillian angrily, 
and reddening. 

* She says,' continues the Squire, docilely 


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First Thoughts. 169 

repeating his lesson, * that she is sure that 
she has learned all that Fraulein Schwarz 
can teach her, and that she could devote 
herself so much more to me if her time 
were freer.' 

'Of course you told her to hold her 
tongue, and go back to her lesson-books,' 
says Gillian irefuUy, fixing a commanding 
eye upon her interlocutor. 

*Of course — of course/ very hastily; 
then looking rather sheepish, and begin- 
ning to flounder, * at least I do not exactly 
remember what I said — one does not 
remember these trifles with any accuracy. 
She means well, poor girl,' glancing with a 
deprecatory air at the severe young figure 
in the elbow-chair ; * I am sure she means 
well — she says she wants to be my right 

. ' In fact, dear,' rejoins Gillian, with a 
little scornful laugh, * she has managed to 
get very complete y on your blind side ! 


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170 Second Thoughts, 

But do not worry yourself; all this will 
right itself when I come home. We will 
see/ shaking her head with a determined 
gesture, and passing her arm with familiar 
fondness through his, as she joins in his 
tramp, tramp — 'we will see who will be 
right-hand then/ 

4t 4t ^ -it * 

By-and-by their colloquy comes to a 
close. The Squire goes out to his club, 
and Gillian remains alone, plunged in the 
soft depths of the short-legged arm-chair 
in which she has, during the last month, 
spent so many solitary hours. The lamp 
burns beside her, but its light does not 
tempt her to any employment. But if her 
hands are idle, so is not her brain. It 
is working and seething with a hundred 
wrathy, vengeful thoughts. Sometimes 
her lips move, as she repeats to herself, 
almost aloud, the murderously cutting 
home-truths which she is composing, in 


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First Thoughts. 171 

order to address, at some opportunity 
or opportunities unknown, to the sordid 
schemer who has defrauded her of her 
birthright. They are not finished at all 
too soon. In fact, the occasion for using 
them is much nigher at hand than she 
thinks. She is just in the act of mentally 
polishing and giving a finer edge to a last 
one that, as she complacently thinks, bids 
fair to excel in corrosive bitterness all its 
predecessors, when the entrance of a 
servant — no charwoman this time, but the 
Squire's own man — calls her back to 
present life. 

* Dr. Burnet wishes to speak to you, 

Here, then, is the opportunity for which 
she has been arming herself with gun and 
sharp sword through the last busy hour. 
And this is how she meets it : 

*Tell him I am engaged,' she says 


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172 Second Thoughts. 

* He says he must speak to you at 
once, ma'am — that it is on most urgent 
business !' 

She* has risen to her feet. At such a 
crisis, who could remain seated ? 

* Tell him,* she says, in a voice that, 
though low and trembling, is yet inexpres- 
sibly haughty, *that I decline to receive 

* But you will — but you shall — but 
you MUSTT cries another voice, in 
tones how different from the unemotional 
ones of the placid valet ; and, as he 
speaks, Burnet pushes hastily past his 
messenger into the room, and thrusting 
him out with scant ceremony, shuts the 
door, and confronts her. 

* Do you dare to force yourself upon 
me in the face of my distinct refusal to 
see you ?' she says pantingly, flaming 
out into crimson anger. 

* I do !* he answers ; * whether you like 


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First Thoughts. 173 

it or not, I will be heard! you shall 
hear me !* 

Her only answer is to move hurriedly 
towards the door; but before she can 
reach it, he has put his back against it* 
His face, ordinarily set in so professional 
a calm, is as white as ashes ; his usually 
quiet shrewd eyes burn like fire. 

* It is no use,* he says, in a low voice. 
* Why you should wish not to hear me, I 
do not know ; but, whether you wish it 
or not, you shall P 

There is such an absolute iron certainty 
in his look and voice, that she stops short, 
quelled, in spite of herself. 

'You know,* he says, *of course you 
know that I have come to speak to you 
about this — this — ' he hesitates, as if 
seeking an adjective strenuous enough ; 
but, finding none to his mind, ends by 
employing none — * this will' 

' Of course !' 


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174 Second Thoughts. 

It would be difficult for anyone to 
infuse into two short words a more potent 
compound of sarcasm and ice than Gillian 
succeeds in doing into these. 

' You know its contents ?' 


The * Yes ' is even better of its kind 
than the * Of course/ and so she feels 
with some satisfaction. 

'That, with the exception of a few 
trifling legacies, Mr. Latimer has left his 
whole property in land, money, houses, 
etc., to you, on the condition that 
I on attaining your twenty -first birth- 
day you give your hand in marriage to 

It is impossible for her lips to give 
verbal assent to such a proposition as 
this. It is degradation enough to have 
to acknowledge, even as she does it, 
by the most microscopic movement of 
eyelid and head that their two names 


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First Thoughts. 175 

have ever been bracketed together by 

* With the penalty attached, that if you 
fail to fulfil this condition, the entire 
property goes to me ?' 

He speaks very rapidly, as if the words 
were indescribably disagreeable to him, 
and he were trying to get them over as 
quickly as he may. He is answered by 
another inclination of the head ; if pos- 
sible more imperceptible than the former 

* If, on the other hand,' he goes on 
rapidly, * I decline to marry you ' (an 
expression of unspeakable insolence, a sort 
of ' That is so likely !* look, steals over 
her face — he does not give one the idea 
of being short-sighted, and he had need to 
be short-sighted indeed not to see it), ^he 
whole goes to_yiM-,-without further restrict 
tion, to dispose of absolutel)^ as you 
choose ?* 


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176 Second Thoughts. 

She makes no comment beyond that 
slight insulting smile. 

He has left his guardianship of the door, 
and has come a pace or two nearer to 

* Of course you will do me the justice 
to acknowledge that this has come upon 
me with as great a shock as it could on 

Then at last she speaks. 

* You must excuse me/ she says slowly, 
* but I decline to answer that question !' 

* You must know,' coming several steps 
nearer to her, and looking hard at her, as 
if he distrusted the evidence of his own 
eyes and ears — * you must know that I was 
as ignorant of the disposition of his money 
affairs as you could be.' 

But again that obstinate, pregnant 
silence, and that maddening smile, are 
his only answer. 

There is a short pause, then : 


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First Thoughts. 177 

* Is — It — possible?' he says, rather hazily, 
catching at a chair-back to steady himself, 
as if he felt dizzy. ' It has been staring 
me in the face, and I would not see it ! If 
that is your opinion of me,* beginning to 
speak very fast, in a concentrated, low 
voice, * do not let me lose a second in 
relieving your mind 1 Let me tell you that 
I absolutely and entirely repudiate and 
refuse my share in this lunatic bargain ! 

Let me assure you Good God ! does 

it need saying — not upon my honour, for 
you do not think that I have any, but upon 
whatever is strongest and most sacred to 
you — if anything is — that I had rather be 
flayed alive than marry a woman under 
such conditions ! I should have thought,' 
with an accent of the most icy scorn, * that 
I need not have told you that.' 

He does not need the back of the chair 
to steady him now. Upright and alone 
he stands, with a face as white as the dead, 

VOL. I. 12 


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178 Second Thoughts. 

and eyes of such burning choler as seem to 
shrivel her up. 

She has no answer to make to him. 
She only stands stupidly staring at him ; 
dully feeling, even at this moment, that 
she has never really seen the man before ; 
has never till now known what he veritably 
looks like. Without one word left her of 
all the many bitter ones she had but now 
planned to speak to him, she stands there, 
the insolent smile stone-dead on her 

' This, then, is what you have been 
fearing ?' he goes on, after a pause, in a 
voice out of which the excitement has 
quite gone, and which expresses only the 
coolest, calmest, most bottomless contempt. 
* Certainly this was not a danger to be 
trifled with! This is the key to that 
conduct which has seemed to me so 
inexplicable, over which I have puzzled 
my head as over a hard riddle ! I have 


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First Thoughts. 179 

been dull ! What a pity that I did not 
conjecture which way your apprehensions 
were tending ; I might have saved you an 
anxious month !' 

Still not a sound in answer. Her great, 
grey eyes, wide and staring, are still 
fastened, as if against her will, on his face 
— that face from which they have hitherto 
looked disdainfully away, when they 
chanced to fall upon it, as if from some 
unhandsome sight. 

* If you remember,* he goes on in the 
same key, *you once asked me what my 
motive was in bringing you here "i I did 
not then perceive the drift of your 
question. I see it now.* 

She does not even try to speak. She 
seems to have become a mere listening 

* I refused to answer you then, being 
aware that you were prepared to disbelieve 
any explanation I could give you. Perhaps 

12 — 2 

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i8o Second Thoughts. 

now you will be more willing to attach 
credence to what I say ; if not/ with a 
slight shrug, * it is no great matter/ 

She thrusts out her hands towards him, 
with a gesture of warding off — forbid- 

* Do not give me any explanation/ 
she says indistinctly ; * I do not want 

But he goes on without heeding her, in 
that cold voice, perfectly composed now ; 
the fire all turned to ice. 

* I had, of course, been long aware of 
your father's indifference towards you — an 
indifference verging on antipathy ; and 
seeing, as he drew towards his end, no 
diminution, but rather an increase, of this 
hostile feeling, I began to be seriously 
afraid lest — since he had never paid any 
heed to the world's opinion, and, indeed, 
thoroughly enjoyed flying in the face of 
convention and use — he might, as likely as 


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First Thoughts. i8i 

not, take it into his head to disinherit you 
at the last moment, and leave his whole 
property to some public charity or 

He stops a moment as if to take breath,, 
being, indeed, but little used to such long- 
winded speech. 

She has sunk down on a chair, her legs 
failing her ; her eyes still fastened on his 
stern, pale face. 

* I had heard that you were hand- 

There is nothing in either words or tone 
to convey the idea, but yet it comes home 
to her with a stab of mortification that 
even in this he has been disappointed. 

* Beauty, as you know, had always great 
power over him. I thought that, perhaps, 
if he saw you, you might, even thus late, 
conciliate his good- will.* 

Again she puts out her hand with a 
gesture of passionate prohibition. 


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1 82 Second Thoughts. 

' Do not go on,* she says huskily ; but 
again he pays no heed. 

* I was sorry for you — for the matter of 
that/ in bitter parenthesis, * I am sorry 
for you still. With great difficulty I 
obtained his permission to send for you. I 
resolved, at some inconvenience to myself, 
to go and fetch you ; there were so many 
things that could be better explained to 
you by word of mouth than in writing.' 

There is a slight pause. She has 
covered her face with both soft hands, 
but even through their shield she feels 
the thrust of those coldly just bright 
eyes, quite as clearly and plainly as when 
she was really meeting them. 

* You know, perhaps I need not remind 
you, how you met me — with how abso- 
lute a discourtesy — with how painstaking 
an incivility ! I suppose that your sus- 
picions of me were coincident with your 
acquaintance T 


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First Thoughts. 183 

The bowed flax head stoops a little 
lower : the hands try to close more com- 
pletely over the face. It seems to her 
intolerable that even so much of it as 
can be seen through the finger-chinks 
should be visible. 

* Still I was not discouraged/ goes 
on the distinct incisive voice ; * still I 
thought that perhaps your churlish be- 
haviour arose only from lack of manners, 
or was the outcome of some infirmity 
of temper : and so, as you know, I 
went on blunderingly trying to conciliate 
you. Had I known ' — planting each word 
with bitter slowness — ' to what motive you 
were attributing every common civility, 
I should have quickly discontinued my 
efforts 1' 

There is silence — a silence so complete, 
so long, that Gillian begins to wonder 
whether he can have left the room with- 
out her hearing his step. But no ! a 


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184 Second Thoughts. 

hasty glance through the interstices of 
her fingers tells her that he is still there, 
standing motionless by the table ; and 
now he speaks yet once again. 

* You are young to be so suspicious !* 
he says, with an accent of almost com- 
passion ; * life must have had but few 
disillusionments for you yet. Have you 
found common honesty so rare a quality, 
that you could not credit with even it 
an absolute stranger of whom you knew 
nothing, who had done you no ill, would 
have done you indeed all the good he 
could, if you had let him ."^ I will give 
you one piece of advice which, as you 
may perhaps now believe, has no arriere 
pensde of my own interest in it. Do not 
go through life attributing the worst 
motives to everyone you meet, and 
putting the most unfavourable construc- 
tion upon their simplest actions ! You 
may be cheated now and then, I con- 


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First Thoughts. 185 

fess ; but on the whole you will be a 
happier woman/ 

And so he leaves the room a good 
deal more calmly than he entered it. 


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ANOTHER night has passed ; a 
new day has come. The sun has 
risen — this is a mere trope, for a London 
winter sun seldom rises — the sun has 
risen on a new Gillian. It was late 
when she fell asleep. To herself it seems 
as if she had not slept at all, and it 
is proportionally late when she heavily 

Surely it cannot be the same person 
who yesterday shook off sleep so lightly, 
and rose fresh and strong and self- 
confident, willing to administer advice. 


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First Thoughts. 187 

help, or judicious admonition to any of 
her housemates that may require them ; 
but thinking it but little likely that she 
should need them herself. And now — 
though that was only twenty-four hours 
ago — her high head lies low, her elastic 
self-esteem is grovelling in the dust, 
crushed to the earth by the deserved con- 
tempt of a fellow-creature's eyes. 

It is the first time that Gillian has learnt 
what it feels like to be completely despised. 
A day ago, she would have owned, and 
would have been quite willing to own, 
that she might probably provoke dislike, 
hostility in some ill-constituted minds ; but 
she would have calmly argued with you, 
have irrefutably proved to you that con- 
tempt was a feeling that could never be 
experienced towards her, seeing that there 
was nothing in her to provoke it. And 
now she has read with a clearness that 
admits of no mistake a contempt so 


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1 88 Second Thoughts. 

profound as to amount to compassion — 
and there can be none profounder — 
written all over a pale just face. She puts 
her fingers into her ears, in irrational 
misery, trying to drown the tones of that 
gravely scornful voice, which she hears 
quite as plainly as when its sound was 
in reality vibrating in her ear. There are 
few more unpleasant sensations than the 
being and having full cause to be 
thoroughly ashamed of one's self, more 
especially when for twenty complacent 
years one has held one's self in unbroken 
good esteem. 

Gillian is weighed down by a shame 
that, when she reluctantly wakes, makes 
her bury her head in the bed-clothes ; 
makes it seem impossible to her to face 
the staring daylight. And yet it has to 
be faced, and not only it, but also the 
Squire, probably also Burnet. The one 
poor expiation that she can make — one 


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First Thoughts, 189 

quite unavoidable, too — is to undeceive 
her uncle as quickly as possible ; without 
delay to dig up the suspicions that she 
herself has planted in the wholesome soil 
of his guileless mind ; to say to him as, 
in the six years of her reign over him, she 
has never yet once said, * You were right, 
and I was wrong !' 

She hurries over her dressing, though 
she would much rather have dawdled over 
it till bed-time came round again, and 
hastens into the breakfast-room, where she 
finds the Squire already seated, dressed in 
the lugubrious decorum of his mourning- 
suit, in which he does not look in the 
least like himself. 

*You must forgive me for beginning 
without you. Gill,' he says, looking up 
from his rasher ; ' but the fact is,' in 
a rather important voice, ' I am so full 
of business this morning. I am off to 
Saunders at once ; we are to go together 


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190 Second Thoughts. 

— - to 's Chambers, at Lincoln's Inn, 

---- New Square ; eleven is the hour he has 

appointed to see us.' 

She has laid her white hand on the 

shining broad-cloth of his black sleeve, 

as she has often laid it in guardian-angel 

admonition or rebuke before. 

* You may save yourself the trouble, 
dear ; you need not go.' 

He looks up at her to see whether he 
has heard aright, dragging his brows 
together to get a clearer view of her 
fair Sphinx face. 

* You need not consult your lawyers,' 
she says, in a low voice, turning aside 
her cheek a little, as if she disliked being 
looked at ; * we — we — are all of one 

' What !' cries her uncle, dropping 
knife and fork with a clatter on his 
plate; *what! do you mean to say,' in 
an astounded voice, ' that you — you have 


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First Thoughts. 191 

made up your mind to — to take him after 

* I have not the chance/ she answers, 
with a pallid smile ; * he will not take me. 
He says ' — making herself repeat his words 
with accurate distinctness-^-* he says that 
he_would rather be flayed alive than 
marry me !' 

* God bless my soul !* cries the Squire, 
bounding off his chair, and on to his 
short legs, and utterly forsaking his 
stiffening bacon and his cooling egg. 

* He thought,* continues the girl, in 
the same carefully distinct voice, * that 
I should be too dear a bargain, even 
though backed by my ;^200,ooo.' 

* I never was so ^:^^ of anything in 
my life !* says the Squire, drawing a long 
relieved breath, while his whole face 
breaks up into irrepressible smiles and 
curves, which, if he were a young girl, 
would be dimples, but, as he is an elderly 


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192 • Second Thoughts. 

man, are only an ingenious sunburnt 
fretwork of fine wrinkles. * After all, 
what else could he do ? he would not 
have got it either' — with a dogged 
British head - shake — * they would have 
given it against him. Saunders says he 
is sure they would have given it against 
him. Did not I tell you ? — but no f 
magnanimously breaking short off, 'what 
does it matter now what I told you, or 
what you told me ?' 

* It matters a great deal,' she answers, in 
a voice that sounds to his ears strangely 
moved. ' If I had listened to your opinion 
instead of being as usual so besotted about 
my own, I might have spared myself the 
humiliation of insulting by my imbecile 
suspicions a man who ' 

She breaks off suddenly, with a sort of 
sobbing catch in her breath. 

* Bless my heart !' says the Squire hazily, 
looking so thoroughly bewildered by the 


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First Thoughts. 193 

altered attitude of his idol, by the fact of 
seeing his Dagon unaccountably precipi- 
tating herself from her six years' pedestal, 
as to be not quite sure of his own identity 
or hers either. * Bless my heart ! what is 
it now ? What can it matter to him what 
your opinion of him was ? Why need he 
ever know it ? I do not suppose,' with a 
good-humoured chuckle, * that you told it 
him in so many words !' 

* Did I not ?' she says excitedly, lifting 
her humiliated, white face towards his. * I 
made it as clear to him as the sun in 
heaven ; and he,' letting her head droop 
on her heaving chest, and speaking with 
a slow accent of pain — * he did not take it 
in at first : when he did, he — he despised 
me as I deserve !' 

* Despised you, did he !' cries her uncle, 
with an angry accent. * I wish I had 
caught him at it. After all, yours was the 
most natural conclusion in the world to 

VOL. I. 13 


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194 Second Thoughts, 

come to. Appearances were very much 
against him ; almost everyone would 
have ' 

* There, there !' she cries, breaking into 
his consolatory speech with impatient 
irritation, ' for heaven's sake do not let 
us go all over it again ! It is done, and 
nothing in the world can make it undone 
again. I can only pray,' with an energy 
of emotion in her quick tones, * that I may 
never in all my life be called upon to look 
him in the face again.' 

The Squire pulls one of his white 
whiskers with a dubious air. 

* Hum !' he says ; * I do not quite see 
how that is to be managed. You must 
remember that your father has, in the case 
of what has actually happened occurring, 
appointed him your sole guardian.' 

She has not been looking at him as he 
spoke. Her eyes have been fixed morosely 
on the carpet. Now she raises them with 


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First Thoughts. 195 

an expression of bewildered consternation 
to his face. 

* My guardian !' she stammers indis- 

* Do not take it to heart, Gill/ rejoins 
he affectionately, mistaking the cause of 
her emotion. * I suppose you are thinking 
that it is about the biggest slight he could 
well have put upon me ; and so it is. I 
will say for him, poor fellow, that he never 
in all his life missed an opportunity of 
doing me a nasty turn ; however,* pulling 
himself up, and looking rather scared at 
his own lapse from Christian charity — 
* however, he is dead and gone, and I am 
sure I am the last person to wish to say 
anything against him.* 

It is doubtful whether Miss Latimer 
hears one word of this little harangue. 
She is silent, it is true, and her ears are 
apparently, and her eyes certainly, wide 



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196 Second Thoughts. 

open ; but yet no look of intelligence or 
apprehension crosses her face. 

* My guardian !* she repeats mistily, 
half under her breath, as if trying to 
make herself understand the sense of 
these words. 

' Of course he may refuse to act !' says 
the Squire, standing in front of his niece, 
a good deal surprised and a little frightened 
at her apparent petrifaction ; * it is quite 
on the cards that he may refuse to act !* 

* Is it ?* she says eagerly, a ray of life 
and animation flashing into her eyes. ' May 
he ? Is it possible ?* 

* Of course it is !' returns he, smiling at 
her Ignorance (it is so very seldom that 
she avows herself more ignorant of any- 
thing than he) ; ' it is optional. To be sure, 
it is an ungrateful office. One never gets 
any thanks for it, and it demands more 
time and trouble than I should think a 


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First Thoughts. 197 

busy man like him could well spare from 
his profession/ 

'If it is optional/ she says, in a low 
voice and with a look of profound relief, 
* of course he will refuse. We need not 
waste any more words upon it ; the thing 
is certain.' 

* Do you think so ?' says the Squire, 
dubiously. * No doubt your judgment is 
better worth having than mine' (she 
winces) ; ' but I cannot feel so sure of that. 
My idea is that he is one of those con- 
scientious kind of chaps that would not 
think it right to shirk a thing merely be- 
cause he disliked it. You know I always 
told you that I thought he looked ' 

He stops in hasty confusion. He might 
as well have finished his sentence — the 
sentence she knows so horribly well. 

* It is impossible!' she cries, breaking in 
with something of her old masterful tone 
and manner ; * you do not know all the 


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198 Second Thoughts. 

circumstances of the case !* (writhing a 
little). *If you did, you would judge as I 
do. It is not worth while wasting any 
more words upon it ; a very short time will 
show who is right. And meanwhile, pray 
let us drop the subject !* 

* With all my heart,* replies the Squire, 
good-humouredly. * I am sure I can 
honestly say,' glancing down as he speaks 
with an air of animosity at the raven 
gloss of his new funeral clothes, * my only 
wish is that we were rid of the whole 
business and back again at Marlowe, jog- 
ging along in our old way. By-the-bye, 
Gill,* consulting with a rather serious air 
his niece's tragic pale face, * you must re- 
member that I have warned you that we 
have got rather out of gear while you have 
been away. I am afraid that you will 
find, when you get home, that some of your 
team require a good deal of driving !' 

* Do they ?' she says, pricking her ears 


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First Thoughts. 199 

and drawing up her neck commandingly 
for a moment, from the force of habit ; 
then, with a sudden and lamentable change 
of tone, * But I have no team. I never 1 
will again — I never will attempt to drive \ 
anybody. I am not fit. Is it possible,' ! 
turning round in a fury upon the un- . 
offending gentleman beside her, * that, 
after what has happened, you still believe 
in me ?* 

The last words die off into a sob ; 
and as she ends, being overwrought and 
wretched, she hides her face on his 
shoulder and begins to cry. 

* God bless me !' cries he, in a horrified 
voice, becoming aware of this phenomenon, 
for to him it is indeed one (Gillian's tears 
have ever been most rare ; and since her 
childhood he has hardly known their 
quality), * you are not going to be illy 
Gill ?' looking alarmedly round at the 
breakfast-table for restoratives, and seeing 


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200 Second Thoughts. 

nothing of that kind but a pepper-castor. 

* Let me — let me/ in a helpless, uncertain 
voice, as one that faces new and untried 
ills — ' let me help you to the sofa, and 
run and get some sal volatile for you !' 

* Oh no, dear ! why should you ?* she 
answers in an irritable voice, raising her- 
self hurriedly and wiping her eyes. * Can- 
not you understand — ' then breaks off, 
and after a pause, during which he eyes 
her nervously, she adds in a more col- 
lected tone, and even smiling faintly, 
for ' something in the look of his awe- 
struck face tickles her — * believe me, I 
never was further from fainting in my 
life !* 

' Were not you ?' he answers doubt- 
fully, * I am very glad to hear it, but 
you look odd, child ! I suppose,* glanc- 
ing resentfully towards the window, 

* that it is this pestilential used-up London 
air, that has passed through three million 


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First Thoughts. 201 

pair of lungs before it has reached one's 
own. You will not be right/ smiling 
anxiously, * till we get you down to 
Marlowe again, and set you to your old 

* My old work !' she repeats, with a 
slight shudder and contraction of the 
brows — ' my old work of going wrong 
myself, and setting everyone else right! 
No ! Heaven forbid that I begin that 
over again !* A moment later, taking 
hold of both his elderly hands with her 
lily-fair young ones, and looking impres- 
sively into his face — * Listen, dear ! You \ 
know how implicitly you have always I 
followed my advice ; you know how | 
habitually I have reversed our right posi- ' 
tions ; you know how often I have im- ' 
pressed upon you that my judgment, 
my instincts, were unerring. Well, if ever 
in the future I begin the old story 
again, remind me of to-day— do you 


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202 Second Thoughts. 

hear, dear ?* excitedly pressing the hands 
she holds — * of to-day, February .sth, 
1 8 7-. You will not forget, will you ?' 

But the Squire only stares disconso- 
lately at her with disbelieving eyes and 
ears, and says with a frightened accent : 

* I wish. Gill, that you would let me 
get you some sal volatile !* 


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IT is an hour or two later. The Squire 
has bustled off to his man of busi- 
ness to report to him the blessed change 
in the face of affairs ; smiling beamingly, 
and kissing his hand to Gillian through 
the side-window of the hansom, as he 
drives away. There is very little beam 
in the forced smile with which she 
answers him, and which disappears 
wholly the very instant he is out of 
eye-range. When he is gone, she begins 
to wander aimlessly about the house ; 
feeling a repugnance too strong to be 


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204 Second Thoughts. 

contested towards the sitting-room which 
was the scene of her yesterday's inter- 
view ; towards sitting in the chair out 
of which she rose to wave Burnet with 
fatuous insolence to the door ; towards 
being mutely reproached by the stand of 
pot-plants, of whose origin she now no 
longer entertains the slightest doubt. 

She ends her restless migrations by 
strolling into the library, that is still 
swaddled and shrouded from head to heel. 
She strays from the bookcase on whose 
ladder she has so often of late stood in 
cramped discomfort, snatchily reading, to 
the window through which she has idly 
watched the splashy washing of so many 
broughams and landaus. 

At each spot, the thought that occupied 
her when last she stood there comes 
potently back to her. She is dismally 
chewing the cud of sour reflection ; re- 
lentlessly passing in review the unreason, 


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First Thoughts. 205 

obstinate uncharity, and signal falsity of 
her own judgments, when the door, as on 
so many previous occasions, opens. She 
starts, fully expecting for the moment to 
see once again the apparition of the nurse^s 
clean cap and white apron ; but no ! 
the nurse has gone to smooth some other 
pillow, and to lighten the weary hours of 
her new invalid, with anecdotes of the 
eccentricity and ill-humour of the old one. 

* I regret extremely to be obliged to 
force myself upon you once again,* says 
Burnet, entering and bowing with cold 
formality. * Believe me, I would have 
avoided it if I could, but I am compelled 
by circumstances to speak to you.* 

* Are you?* she says, almost inaudibly, 
stammering and trembling, for she is 
taken quite off her guard ; then, with a 
prodigious effort, trying to pull herself 
together, ' Pray, come in ! won*t you — 
won't you sit down ?* 


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2o6 Second Thoughts, 

This is perhaps, under the circum- 
stances, almost an empty compliment, as 
none of the chairs are in a position to be 
sat upon. Most are standing acrobatically 
on their heads, and all have brown-hoUand 
night-gowns on; but the intention is good. 

* Thank you, no !' he replies gravely, 
though an almost invisible smile flashes 
for a second into his eyes, as, glancing 
round, he realises the hoUowness of the 

There is a moment's pause. He has 
shut the door, and is standing opposite 
to her, exactly opposite, where he can 
minutely watch every agonised fluctuation 
of her complexion ; every tremor of the 
heavy white eyelids that droop over her 

* I need not, I suppose, remind you, 
he says, in a low but steady voice, *of 
the subject of the conversation that passed 
between us yesterday ?* 


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First Thoughts. 207 

Her sole answer is to writhe. With 
an unavoidable movement of shame, she 
raises both hands towards her face ; then, 
mastering herself with a great effort, 
lowers them again. She cannot go 
through all her life with her hands 
before her face. 

* You need not be alarmed !' he says 
hastily, observing, and perhaps — who 
knows i^ — compassionating these symptoms. 
* I will not recur to it more than is 
unavoidable, but I am compelled again 
to allude to Mr. Latimer's will. I presume 
that you know that he has appointed me 
your guardian }' 

* And you refuse to act ?' she cries 
precipitately, in an uneven voice, breaking 
in upon his sentence ; * of course, that is 
understood. I know that that is what 
you are going to say !' 

' Do you, indeed '?' he replies quietly, 
with a very slight lifting of his straight 


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2o8 Second Thoughts. 

eyebrows ; * then you know more than 
I know myself f 

She has lifted her eyes, and, astonish- 
ment for the moment getting the better 
of shame, is staring hard and full at 

* I do not refuse to act !* he continues 
firmly, returning her full glance with one 
as direct ; * it would be useless to deny 
that it would be pleasanter to do so. Our 
intercourse,* with a slight and quickly 
suppressed flash of resentment, * has not 
been so agreeable that we are either of 
us likely to wish to prolong it. If we 
followed our inclinations, there is no doubt 
that we should never be brought into 
contact with each other again ; but, as 
perhaps you may have already learnt, we 
cannot always follow our inclinations in 
this world.' 

Having given vent rather drily to this 
truism, he pauses a moment, either to 


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First Thoughts. 209 

take breath, or expecting some com- 

* No, one cannot !' she says, meekly 
and faltering. 

* A promise is a promise,' he resumes, 
taking up his parable again with another 
truism. ' Long ago, long before — I need 
hardly say — I had any personal acquaint- 
ance with you ' — pronouncing these words 
very distinctly, whereat she shivers a little, 
and droops her head again — * being led 
by your father erroneously to imagine 
that you would be left without any near 
relative or natural protector ' 

* He never counted Uncle Marlowe,' 
she murmurs ; * he always hated him !' 

* I promised that in case of his death I 
would look after your interests.' 

* My interests !' she repeats, with bitter- 
ness ; * he was quite indifferent to them ; 
he was only anxious to slight Uncle 
Marlowe !* 

VOL. I. 14 

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210 Second Thoughts. 

* Possibly ! but though I now see that 
I promised under an entire misapprehen- 
sion of the facts of the case' — with con- 
siderable emphasis — ' yet none the less 
do I look upon my promise as still 
binding. I do not refuse ; I accept the 
responsibility entailed upon me !' 

At each clause of his speech she 
seems to herself to step one rung further 
down the ladder of humiliation. 

* Is it possible ?' she says faintly. * I — 
I could not have believed it. I — I thank 
you very much.' 

* Do not/ he says harshly, with a 
forbidding gesture, waving off her acknow- 
ledgments : * you owe me no thanks, and 
I have no wish to take what does not 
belong to me. Pray allow me to finish 
what I have to say to you.' 

She shrinks back into herself, snubbed 
and silent, and he proceeds : 

* Under the mistaken idea that I have 


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First Thoughts. 211 

explained to you of your lonely and 
uncared-for condition, I promised your 
father that, in case of his dying during 
your minority, I would take you to live 
with me — in my house — until you came of 

As he speaks and the meaning of his 
sentence reaches her brain, an instan- 
taneous overmastering flood of red pours 
over her face and throat. 

* To live with — to live in your house !' 
she echoes, stammering. 

He looks away ; dislike her as he may 
and undoubtedly does, he is merciful 
enough to pretend not to observe that 
agony of confusion. 

* I must hasten to explain,' he says 
hurriedly, ' that I have a sister — an old — 
an unmarried woman of a certain age, 
who livgs with me and keeps my house.' 
Then quickly continuing : * When, during 
the course of the last month, I became 

14 — 2 

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212 Second Thoughts. 

personally acquainted with you, and with 
your real relations and position in life, 
I earnestly entreated Mr. Latimer to re- 
lease me from my engagement ; but such 
was the force of his prejudice against 
Mr. Marlowe, that he utterly and violently 
refused to comply.' 

The scarlet ebbs gradually away from 
cheek and forehead, and gives way to an ex- 
pression of the blankest pale consternation. 

' To — live in your house ! after what 
has happened !' she says, gasping. * Oh, 
it is monstrous ! It cannot beT 

He shrugs his shoulders. 

* It will not be for long ; I imagine ' — 
with a cursory, careless glance at her ripe» 
June beauty — ' that your age is not very 
far short of twenty-one.' 

* I shall not be twenty-one till the ist of 
August,' she replies, with a tearful droop 
of the corners of her mouth ; ' that is five 
whole months off.' 


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First Thoughts. 213 

A slight shade of disappointment clouds 
his eyes. 

' Five months !* he repeats. * I had 
certainly thought of a shorter time ; but 
after all/ with recovered equanimity, 
^ even five months is soon over/ 

* I tell you it is out of the question !' she 
cries, in great and distressing agitation ; 
* it is a sheer impossibility, after what has 

Again he shrugs. 

* We had better turn our backs as much 
as we can on the past,* he answers 
steadily ; * otherwise, I agree with you, the 
thing is a sheer impossibility/ 

* Will you show me how to turn my 
back upon it ?* she cries, with an accent 
of almost scorn. * Do you find it so easy — 
I say, do you find it so easy to forget ?' 

' I said nothing about forgetting,' he 
answers drily ; * only children and fools 


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214 Second Thoughts. 

There is a dreary silence. Gillian is 
forcing herself to face this incredible 
future, these five hideous months of 
hourly companionship with the man whom 
she has so grossly, clumsily wronged ; 
the life of a kitten with the bird she has 
killed tied round her neck. 

* No,* he continues presently, in a re- 
flective yet matter-of-fact tone, * we will 
say nothing about forgetting ; that is 
beyond the scope of our will. But let us, 
without more talking, do what is well 
within it, which is to accept the inevitable, 
and behave to each other, during the 

i period of our forced companionship, with 
decent humanity and civility ; that ought 
not to be so difficult.' 

' He looks at her half inquiringly, as if 
expecting an answer ; but she is not in a 
condition to frame any, whether of assent 
or negation. 

* At the end of the five months,* he 


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First Thoughts. 215 

pursues, straightening himself, and draw- 
ing rather a long breath of relief at the 
prospect, * we shall again be free ; it will 
then lie only with ourselves to decide 
whether we shall ever come into contact 
again in the course of our lives.* 

There is something in his tone intangible, 
indescribable, yet to her ear perfectly 
intelligible, which leaves small doubt in 
her mind as to what his own decision on 
that point will be. 

* Five months ! — twenty-five weeks ! — 
a hundred and seventy-five days !' she 
ejaculates, going through a dismayed 
calculation. Again that sudden flashing 
smile is born and again instantly ex- 
tinguished in his eyes. 

*You must remember that they will 
come one at a time,' he says in a consoling 
voice ; though whether the consolation is 
addressed to himself or to her, even he is 
not very clear ; * they will not come all at 


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2i6 Second Thoughts. 

once. Happily, most ills can be borne when 
they come one at a time.' 

But this view of the subject fails to 
exhilarate his auditor. The corners of her 
mouth are still turned lamentably down, 
and two salt, sullen tears are oozing 
through her drooped lashes. He tries 
another form of comfort. 

* I think,' he says in a cold, civil, quiet 
voice, ' that the inconveniences you appre- 
hend may perhaps turn out to be fewer 
than you anticipate. It is the association 
with me that you naturally and unavoidably 
dread ; but I think that on this point I 
may partially reassure you.* 

At the word 'reassure,' she lifts her 
grey eyes suddenly, and the two tears 
shaken off by this unexpected movement 
fall on the breast of her black gown and 
glitter there. 

^I am a busy man,' he continues, his 
dry cold glance meeting her disconsolate 


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First Thoughts. 217 

wet one ; * there are very few moments of 
the day, unoccupied by my profession, 
spent by me at home. It is true that I 
return to dinner, but I often dine out, and 
as often as not — probably now oftener than 
not — I pass the evenings in my own room. 
Our intercourse therefore, our conversation, 
excepting what regards your own affairs, 
may be therefore reduced to a minimum. 
I think I can promise you this !' 

Her moist look falls again to the 
carpet : her lips twitch. 

* Thank you,' she says, in a small voice 
that neither Jane, Emilia, nor Dick, nor 
any of the Marlowe servants would credit 
to be hers, did they hear it. 

* You will be free to come and go as 
you choose,' he continues, still speaking 
in that rather harsh and schoolmasterly 
tone, * to visit and be visited by the 
society you yourself please to select ; the 
control I exercise over you will probably 


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2i8 Second Thoughts. 

be purely nominal. I think * — pausing a 
moment, and passing his hand over his 
forehead in careful reflection — * I think 
that that is all that is needful to be said 
on the subject at present ; I think I 
need not trespass on your time further 
this morning.' 

He walks to the door, but reaching it, 
stops, and turning, again approaches her : 

* There is one thing I had perhaps 
better add,' he says, in a tone rather less 
compassed than his former one, and through 
which pierces an emotion of some kind, 
* I shall be glad if, during your stay in 
my house, you could be moderately polite 
to my sister.' 

She looks back at him for a moment, 
white and aghast ; then breaking out into 
sudden speech : 

*What!' she cries passionately, *do 
you think I am always — do you think I 
can never ' 


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First Thoughts. 


She stops short, struck dumb by her 
own conscience. What reason, indeed, 
has he to credit her with the least portion 
of this lowly but amiable Christian grace ? 



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PART 11. 



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FOR the second time within two 
months, Miss Latimer has violently 
kicked and pushed against her destiny, | 
and that iron destiny has quietly repelled 1 
her puny attacks, and left her baffled, y 
bruised, and worsted. Twice she -has 
hotly clamoured that * it cannot be !' and 
lo ! twice she comes to learn that it can 
be ; not only that it can be, but * that 
it is/ 

Another fortnight has gone ; a tiresome, 
hurried, unrestful fortnight of business and 
business arrangements ; of taking inven- 


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224 Second Thoughts, 

tories — for the house in Square is 

to be let, furnished — of making up dozens 
of wine-glasses, and repairing breaches in 
the ranks of egg-cups and pie-dishes, for 
the incoming tenants. 

To-day all is ended. Squire Marlowe, 
with his hair more erect than ever on his 
head, and wrapped in an ulster, in which 
he looks like a short, tearful bear, has 
gone away sobbing in a hansom, with his 
portmanteau on the top, to Euston Square; 
and Gillian, crying too, but less noisily, is 
left behind, to front the perils of her new 
life ; to face the fivejmonths, the twenty- 
five weeks, the one hundred and seventy- 
five days. The sole provision she has 
made against them is a large almanack, 
which she has purchased with the intention 
of hanging it up over against her bed ; and 
passing a pen stroke through each purga- 
torial day as it rolls into the past, and so 
brings her nearer by twenty-four hours to 


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Second Thoughts, 225 

the moment of her deliverance. It has 
been agreed that she is to make her 
appearance towards luncheon-time in 

Street. Since the conversation 

related in the last chapter, she has held no 
communication, save on business, with her 
guardian, except for five minutes two days 
ago, when he came hastily in to make 
final arrangements as to the exact date of 
her arrival at his house. The necessary 
sentences have been exchanged with stiff 
civility. He is about to leave her, when, 
to his surprise, she nervously detains him. 

* I — I wish to ask,' she says, stammer- 
ing — * it is best to know — does your sister 

— does Miss B urnet begin with any pre 

judice against mer Have you — have you 
— told her anything ?' 

He answers her curtly, * Nothing !* and 
so goes. 

Despite this assurance, Gillian's heart 
beats low, and her nerves tingle, as, at five 

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2 26 Second Thoughts, 

minutes to one in the afternoon, her four- 
wheeler, with herself, her maid — for she 
now again has a maid — and her boxes, 
draws up with all the shabby dragging 
humility of its kind at the house indi- 
cated ; and in one moment she is standing 
inside its commonplace portals. Even to 
a meeting with one who is personally un- 
known to us, we mostly go with some 
preconceived notions or preparatory in- 
formation ; but concerning Miss Burnet 
Gillian has neither. Her sole knowledge 
of her is derived from her brother's laconic 
statement that she is * a single woman of a 
certain age ;' which condemnatory phrase, 
though it shuts the door upon youth, 
beauty, and sentiment, yet leaves a large 
margin in the matter of character, and 
even of externals, for the imagination to 
play upon. 

* A single woman of a certain age !* 
repeats Gillian to herself, involuntarily, as 


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Second Thoughts, 227 

she follows her own name into a good- 
sized room, and finds the lady who answers 
to this description advancing to meet her. 

An elderly figure, disguised by an 
enveloping woollen shawl, has slowly risen 
fi-om a chair, and is holding out a formal 
hand to her ; but as no words accompany 
this dumb greeting, she herself speaks : 

* I hope,' she says, summoning to her 
aid that courteous ease and self-possession 
which, as she flatters herself, and as many 
people have told her, six years of welcom- 
ing and entertaining good and various 
company have given her, * I hope that I 
am in good time ! I hope that I have not 
kept you waiting !* 

* We should not have waited,' replies 
the other, ungraciously ; * professional men 
cannot wait ! As it happens, however, 
she adds, after an instant's pause, ' John -^ 
is still engaged seeing patients.' 

Even as she speaks, there is the 


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228 Second Thoughts, 

sound of a sharp decided footstep on 
the stairs ; the door opens, and Burnet 
enters. It would be natural, perhaps, 
that a host on first welcoming a guest 
beneath his roof should offer her his 
hand. But this does not happen in the 
present case. He contents himself with 
a grave bow. It flashes across Gillian 
that he and she have never shaken 
hands. Apparently they are not going 
to begin now. 

* You have met already to-day, it 
seems !' says Miss Burnet, with a sharp 
glance from one to the other ; and draw- 
ing the natural inference from their mode 
of salutation. Then, as nobody answers 
her: *At all events,* she goes on, smiling 
drily, * I may save myself the trouble 
of introducing you to each other : you 
are fast friends already, I presume.' 

Burnet has seized the smart bright 
poker, and is raking out with noisy fury 


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Second Thoughts, 229 

the lowest bar of the grate. Gillian 
crimsons. But, apparently, the single 
woman of a certain age is not a person 
of very nice perceptions, for she con- 
tinues, her keen look still travelling from 
one to the other of the suddenly red- 
dened faces before her : * There is nothing 
that conduces so much to intimacy as per- 
petually meeting in a sick-room, is there ?* 

' What has become of luncheon ?' cries 
Burnet, dropping his poker with some 
clamour, and breaking into her sentence 
with hasty brusqueness ; * what are they 
thinking about ?' 

At that moment it is announced, to the 
poignant relief of two out of the three 
persons present, and they all go down. It 
is a very good luncheon, solid, various, 
temptingly spread, and Gillian had thought 
herself hungry ; but it seems that the g^ne 
of her position has destroyed even her 
healthy country appetite. How can she 


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230 Second Thoughts, 

eat his quenelles and cutlets, delicate and 
appetizingly dressed as they confessedly 
are ? At each mouthful she swallows, one 
of the many insults she has heaped upon 
him rises up in judgment and chokes 

' There is nothing that you can fancy, it 
seems,* says Miss Burnet, with a rather 
displeased glance at her neglected dainties. 
* However, I am really not to blame ; I 
consulted John as to your likes and dis- 
likes, but he professed himself quite 
ignorant of them,' with the same look of 
grim penetration. 

Gillian would have liked to leave this 
sentence quite without answer, but, as some 
response is clearly expected of her, she 
speaks with effort : 

* It is quite true — we have never — it has 
never happened that Dr. Burnet and I 
have broken bread together before.' 

She does not, as would seem natural, 


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Second Thoughts. 231 

look with friendly appeal for confirmation 
at the end of this sentence to him of whom 
it treats. On the contrary, her eyes drop 
to her plate, and again that dreaded silence 
seems about to resume its sway. It is 
Burnet himself who makes the next spas- 
modic effort to vanquish it. 

* Mr. Marlowe left you this morning, I 
suppose ?' he says in a formal matter-of- 
fact voice, and not glancing at her as he 

* Yes, at 10*30,' she answers, not looking 
at him either. 

* At what hour did he expect to reach 
home ?' 

* Not until near dinner-time ; it is a 
tedious journey.' 

At once it flashes over both their 
memories in whose company each had 
last taken that tedious journey ; and the 
recollection dries up in an instant the 
scanty runlet of their flat talk. When 


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232 Second Thoughts. 

they had been vituperating each other, 
they had been so fluent — never at a loss 
for a word ; but now that civility and 
little cheap courtesies are all that is asked 
of them, they are unable to find a 

* I appear,' says Miss Burnet, drily, 
looking up from her plate — * I appear to 
be a check upon your conversation ; no 
doubt you have much to talk about that 
is not meant for a third pair of ears. 
Luncheon is with me such a mere matter of 
form, that it is only for the sake of soci- 
ability that I ever sit down to it. To tell 
you the truth, I shall be only too glad of 
an excuse to ' 

' Oh, pray do not go !' says Gillian, in- 
terrupting with eager haste, and stretching 
out a frightened white hand in detention 
towards her hostess. 

* For heaven's sake, stay where you are !' 
cries Burnet, peremptorily. A moment 


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Second Thoughts. 233 

later, looking rather ashamed of his own 
vehemence, he adds confusedly : 'It is 
time for me to be off myself ; I must be 
going r 

* It is not half-past yet,' says his sister, 
sharply ; * you never go till half-past ! Why 
are you in such a wonderful hurry to- 
day ?' 

He reseats himself, looking rather 
sheepish. By-and-by Miss Burnet rises, 
and in so doing lets her shawl drop from 
about her on the floor. In an instant he 
has hastened to pick it up. 

* Pray do not trouble yourself !' she says 
crabbedly ; * I have had to pick up my own 
pocket-handkerchief for too many years to 
be able to get into the way of having it 
done for me now !' 

His only answer is to fold her extensive 
muffler round her, with patient good- 
humour, and send her upstairs, bidding her 
beware of the draughts for her cold. Gil- 


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234 Second Thoughts. 

Han follows her. Arrived in the drawing- 
room : 

* I suppose/ says the elder woman, 
letting her eyes stray in leisurely investiga- 
tion over the younger, * that you would 
like to see your rooms. Under the circum- 
stances, I am sure that you will not expect 
me to show them to you. After all, you 
cannot go wrong — the second door on the 
first landing on the right hand. As I 
understand that you are to make some 
stay with us, it would be absurd that you 
should be on the footing of a two days 

Gillian colours. 

* I am sorry,' she says, in a voice of 
suppressed offence, * that I am obliged to 
intrude upon you.' 

* We shall not interfere,' replies the 
other, apparently unaware of her guest's 
emotion, and looking suspiciously round, 
as she speaks, at the windows in search 


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Second Thoughts. 235 

of draughts. ' I go my way ; you go 

It is true, that to lose yourself in an 
average London house is no easy feat ; 
and Gillian, following the directions so 
cavalierly imparted, finds herself presently 
in a large and airy bedroom — a bedroom 
French - bedded, che val - glassed, amply 
wardrobed ; and passing out of it, discovers 
another smaller room, arranged — and evi- 
dently freshly and carefully arranged — as a 

* Come, Her bark is worse than her 
bite !* says the girl, gaily ; * she has 
treated me better than she has herself. 
There were no flowers in the drawing- 
room, only an Indiarubber plant — bringing, 
as she speaks, both nose and velvet cheek 
into loving contact with the great white 
bells of an odorous hyacinth. 

But was it Miss Burnet ? A recollec- 
tion of the former pot plants, of whose 


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236 Second Thoughts. 

origin she had never dared to inquire, rises 
suddenly in judgment before her; and, 
catching a hasty glimpse of her own flush- 
ing face in a mirror opposite, she turns 
hastily to the window, feeling as if her 
own reflection were some one else — some 
one to note and mock at her guilty blush. 
By-and-by she continues her explorations. 
Fires burn cheerfully in both rooms, and 
her maid is already busily unpacking. 
She takes out the almanack, and hangs it 
up exactly opposite her bed-foot, so that 
it may be the first object on which her 
waking eyes fall ; then she arranges her 
books ; then she writes to the Squire, and 
tries, conscientiously, if not quite success- 
fully—and, after all, who can expect to be 
perfectly successful in a first attempt — to 
refrain from giving him advice. She had 
thought that she had kept careful watch 
over each several sentence ; and yet, on 
reading it over, she cannot deny that the 


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Second Thoughts. 237 

whole has a slightly hortatory air. How- 
ever, it is too much trouble to rewrite it, 
so it goes. 

-;& ^ ^ ^k ¥e 

It is evening. Dinner is over. To say 
that it has been enjoyed would be an over 
statement ; since, though there is some 
excitement, yet there is certainly not much 
positive pleasure in social converse which 
it requires a continued vigilance to keep 
from falling into quagmires of confusion, 
or pitfalls of awkward silence. However, 
it is now over, and Gillian, seated in safe 
if not very amusing tite-d-tite with her 
hostess over the drawing-room fire, begins 
to breathe and cool again. She has fallen 
into a sort of reverie ; her eyes, with faint 
displeasure, taking in the details of the 
unlovely, stiff room, into which an uphol- 
sterer has apparently been turned, to work 
unchecked his tasteless will, when a sudden 
interrogation, fired point-blank at her — an 


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238 Second Thoughts. 

interrogation to which she is totally unable 
to give a satisfactory answer — rouses her 
with a start : 

* What has become of John ?' 

* I — I — do not know/ answers the girl, 
confused ; * does he usually sit with you in 
the evenings ?' 

* Always when he is at home ; I make 
a point of it. Will you ring the bell, 
please ?* 

Gillian complies ; and when the servant 
answers it, 

* Tell Dr. Burnet to come up at once \ 
says his sister, commandingly. 

In a few moments the man returns. 

* Dr. Burnet says that he hopes you will 
be so good as to excuse him to-night, 'm ; 
he is busy.' 

* Busy ! Fiddlesticks !' exclaims she, 
brusquely ; * what is he busy about H" 

* He did not say, 'm ; he only said he 
was busy.' 


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Second Thoughts, 239 

* Humph r 

By-and-by tea is brought in, and Miss 
Burnet returns to her charge. 

* Tell Dr. Burnet that tea is ready !' 
In two minutes the butler reappears. 

* Dr. Burnet would be very much 
obliged, 'm, if you would send him down 
a cup of tea; he cannot come up to- 

* Cannot come up ?* very sharply ; * why 
cannot he come up ? go and ask him 

Ruthless as to his legs, and forgetting 
to count the number of journeys up and 
down the endless London stairs, on which 
she is sending him, she again despatches 
her messenger, but with no better success. 

* Dr. Burnet says he cannot come up 
to-night, 'm ; he would be obliged if you 
would send him his tea.' 

There is something apparently in the 
shape of the sentence which tells Miss 


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240 ■ Second Thoughts. 

Burnet that she is worsted, and must sit 
down under her defeat, for she says no 
more ; but after pouring out a cup of tea, 
and throwing in lumps of sugar with a 
defiant and protesting air, returns to her 
chair, and after ruminating in silence for 
about five minutes : 

* One would think/ she says slowly, and 
fixing a shrewd look upon her vis-a-vis, 
on whose face the late exchange of 
messages has left plain traces of uneasi- 
ness and discomfiture — *one would think 
that you had frightened him away.* 


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DURING the hours of the long night, 
when everything else is idle, the 
snow, at least, is busy ; and Gillian, hasten- 
ing down in shivering hurry to an eight 
o'clock breakfast, finds street and house- 
tops coldly swathed in white. Dr. Burnet 
and his sister are already seated, and 
engaged in lively dialogue, ci propos, as 
Miss Latimer presently discovers, of the 
snow that has to be shovelled from the 

' I should really advise you to employ 
the regular men !* Burnet is saying, in a 

VOL. I. 1 6 

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242 Second Thoughts, 

tone of temperate and deferential sug- 

* I have already sent for old Joe/ replies 
his sister, decisively. 

* If you remember* — a slight smile 
curling his grave mouth — 'last time, he 
arrived so exceedingly drunk as to be 
perfectly incapable T 

* I remember, poor old fellow, that his 
enemies chose to say so,' retorts she, 

* I think, Hannah,' with gentle insist- 
ance, * if I could persuade you * 

* You will never persuade me to turn 
my back upon an old friend in adversity !' 
she answers grandiosely ; * pray say no 
more about it ! I have sent for old 

He shrugs his shoulders with a gesture 
of resignation, and the subject drops. 

About an hour later, as Gillian is stand- 
ing by the drawing-room window, reading 


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Second Thoughts, 243 

a note which has just been put Into her 
hand, the sound of a tremendous crash 
echoes through the house. For a moment 
both women stand stunned by the noise ; 
then : 

* As sure as possible/ cries Miss Burnet, 
in a horror-struck voice, *it is old Joe, 
who has fallen from the roof!' 

In an instant she is rushing downstairs, 
and Gillian, in high excitement, • at her 
heels. Arrived on the ground-floor, they 
find the whole strength of the establish- 
ment gathered in a glass-roofed passage, 
which leads to the doctor s bath-room, the 
chief part of which roof now lies, thanks 
to the exertions of Miss Burnet's protSg^^ 
in sharp, bright shivers on the floor, he 
having, apparently in a moment of ex- 
hilaration, flung a great weight of snow 
on the top of it, and playfully pitched his 
shovel after. 

* He is not hurt, is he, poor old fellow ?' 


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244 Second Thoughts. 

cries Miss Burnet, in a breathless voice, 
looking round with scared anxiety from 
one of the gathered faces to another. 

* Heaven be praised, he is quite intact !' 
replies her brother, drily. * I wish I could 
say as much for my poor roof !' 

This is all the reproach that he makes 
her. He is turning away to his morning s 
work, when he casually encounters Gillian's 
glance — a glance bright and soft with 
compassion for his misfortunes and ad- 
miration of his patience — involuntarily 
fastened upon him. 

For the first time in their lives their 
souls meet and salute each other in a 
friendly laugh. For one second the 
curtain of awkwardness and embarrass- 
ment between them is drawn up ; to be 
let down, however, at once again. 

* I wished to speak to you,' says the girl, 
dropping her eyes to the broken glass 
which the servants are beginning gingerly 


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Second Thoughts. 245 

to sweep up. * I have had an invitation,' 
glancing at the note in her hand, *to 
luncheon for to-day from some people I 
know — the Tarltons. I think — if you re- 
member, you saw them that day — at 

* To be sure, to be sure !' he replies, 
hastily shying away, as is usual with them 
both, from any allusion to their first meet- 
ing : then lapsing into the tone of formal 
and constrained politeness which he always 
employs towards her — *of course, of course ! 
Pray accept ; I am delighted !' 

Even as he speaks he is gone. She 
had wished for a ready assent to her pro- 
position, but now that she has got it, she 
is not altogether pleased with the accent | 
of genuine relief and pleasure which she 
hears or imagines in the tone with which 
it is given. 

* He might have disguised a little better 
his joy at being rid of me for half an 


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246 Second Thoughts. 

hour/ she says to herself somewhat bit- 
terly, as she begins to climb the stairs a 
good deal more deliberately than, five 
minutes ago, she came down them. 

The Tarltons are still sojourning at 
Garland's Hotel ; and thither, at the hour 
appointed. Miss Latimer repairs. She is 
shown into a large first-floor sitting-room ; 
and as her name is announced, the figure 
of a woman, who has apparently had no 
livelier occupation than to be staring out 
at the quiet cul de sac made by the hotel 
at the end of Suffolk Street, turns quickly 
towards her; a woman s voice utters an 
exclamation of pleasure. 

* So you have come, have you 'i We all 
thought it was very doubtful if your gaoler 
would let you out of his clutches.* 

* My gaoler !' repeats Gillian in a be- 
wildered voice, forgetting to respond to 
her friend's effusive greeting ; * what gaoler 
— what are you talking about i*' 


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Second Thoughts. 247 

' What gaoler — what am I talking 
about ?' replies the other, laughing and 
mimicking her ; * have you so many then ? 
Why, your guardian, to be sure !' — with a 
sarcastic accent — *the scheming medical 
adventurer you told me about, when I 
came to see you in Square/ 

* I told you about ?' echoes Gillian, 

' Y^Sy yoUy to be sure I who else ? Why, 
you said, or rather hinted, pis que pendre 
of him ! Is it possible that you forget ?' 

*You exaggerate!' cries Gillian, pas- 
sionately, shaking off the hand that holds 
her, as if it had been a viper — * you exag- 
gerate unjustifiably ! I could not, I never 
did ; I wish my tongue had been cut out 
before I * 

She breaks off, choked and stammer- 

* It is evident that I am on a wrong 
tack,' says Sophia, shrewdly. * I suppose,* 


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248 Second Thoughts. 

with a touch of irony, *that my ears 
must have deceived me! Come, we will 
change the subject.* 

Gillian makes a gesture of eager acqui- 
escence ; then : 

* Where is Anne ?* she asks hastily. 

* She is in the back-room,* replies 
Sophia. ' We find that it conduces more 
to family harmony that we should each 
occupy a separate sitting-room.* 


*She is showing our cousin, Harry 
Fielding, how to make the hangman*s 
knot,' pursues Sophia, with a shrug. 
* You know Anne always begins with the 
hangman's knot !* 

At this point the folding-doors that lead 
into the next room open and Anne*s 
yellow head appears in the aperture. 

' Gillian !* she cries, with an accent of 
pleasure ; * I had no idea that you had 
come.* Then turning angrily to her sister. 


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Second Thoughts. 249 

*Why was not I told that Gillian was 
here ?' 

*We thought it a pity to disturb you/ 
replies Sophia, spitefully. 

* So you have escaped from your ogre !* 
cries the younger girl, ignoring her sister's 
gibe, and affectionately clasping both 
Gillian's hands ; * how did you manage it ? 
I suppose that you stole off on tiptoe, 
without letting him know. What are you 
making faces about, Sophia ?' 

The entry of Mrs. Tarlton, and the 
almost simultaneous announcement of 
luncheon, happily render explanation for 
the moment unnecessary. 

Presently they are all sitting round the 
table. Gillian is placed beside her hostess, 
who, as soon as they are seated, gives her 
young guest's nearest hand an affectionate 
squeeze, saying confidentially : 

*You must tell us all about it by-and- 
by. Sophia gave us a shocking idea of 


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250 Second Thoughts. 

him from your account. What a designing 
wretch he must be !* 

Gillian gives a sort of gasp, and looks 
forlornly round the table in search of aid. 
She feels as if it were blackest treachery 
not to speak, and yet her tongue cleaves to 
the roof of her mouth. 

The General unintentionally comes to 
her aid. The General, who has hitherto 
been sitting in that grumpy silence that a 
well-bred man can permit himself only in 
the bosom of his own family. 

* Anne, will you be so good as to tell 
your mother that these cutlets are abso- 
lutely raw ?' 

Anne wisely refrains from delivering 
this message, or its answer, promptly 

* Will you explain to your father, Anne, 
that I am not in the habit of cooking the 
luncheon, and therefore cannot be respon- 
sible for it.* 


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Second Thoughts. 251 

One would imagine that such an 
exchange of amenities between the heads 
of the house would throw a gloom over 
the rest of the company. But such is not 
the case. Use is everything ; and since 
the time when they were first able to lisp, 
the Misses Tarlton have been in the habit 
of matter - of - factly transmitting their 
parents* challenges. The conversation 
flows on as smoothly as if no such sharp- 
shooting had taken place. 

* May one come and see you ?' asks 
Sophia inquisitively, surveying with a 
rather puzzled air the uncomfortable, but 
beautiful hot red roses in her friend's 
cheeks. * Are you allowed to receive 
visitors "i I am devoured with curiosity 
to see your intdrieur' 

* Nothing is easier,' replies Gillian, con- 
strainedly ; * I have a sitting-room of my 
own, in which I shall be happy to receive 


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252 Second Thoughts, 

Miss Tarlton looks disappointed. 

' That is not quite what I meant ; I 
want to see him. What is the best moment 
for catching a glimpse of him ? is he 
generally at home at luncheon ?* 

* I believe — sometimes !* very reluc- 

* Why do you want to see him i*' cries 
Mrs. Tarlton in indignant partisanship, 
again making a sympathetic clutch at 
Gillian's most reluctant hand. * For my 
part, I would not sit at the same table with 
such a rogue !' 

Again that gasping effort to speak ; 
again that choking inability. She can 
only mutely tear her hand away, as she 
has already done from Sophia. If they 
do not understand this dumb protest, she 
can make no other. By-and-by they 
finish luncheon ; but not before Gillian 
has had to undergo the condolences and 
martial ire of the General, who, being 


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Second Thoughts. 253 

rather deaf, has not heard any of the 
previous dialogue, and therefore reopens 
the whole subject ab ovo, expressing his 
opinion of Burnet's past, and his hopes 
for his future, in very nervous Saxon. In 
fact, the sympathy of her friends is so 
overpowering to Miss Latimer, that 
immediately on leaving the dining-room 
she asks for her brougham ; and when it 
comes, hastily hurries into it. Sophia 
accompanies her to the door for a few last 

* I am quite serious,' she says, with her 
hand on the panel ; * you may expect me 
in a day or two ; I always like to judge 
for myself. You lunch at two, I suppose ? 

All the way home Gillian lies back in 
the cushions, dissolved in bitter tears of 
repentance and remorse over her own 
dastardliness. Her only ray of consolation 
lies in the fact that she has left Sophia in 


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254 Second Thoughts. 

the mistaken belief that the Burnet family 
lunches at two. 

' If you please, 'm, Dr. Burnet is very 
sorry, but he is busy again to-night ; and 
he would be much obliged if you would 
send him down his tea.' 

The cups stand arow ; the bright 
kettle hisses lustily, seated on the spirit- 
lamp ; the curtains are drawn, and the 
garish carpet and the expensive chairs 
have their uglinesses glossed over and 
explained away by the amiable red fire- 
light. The parrot, who has been sedu- 
lously screeching most of the afternoon, is 
silent in sleep ; so is the prosperous tom- 
cat ; so apparently is Miss Burnet. At 
least, so she was ; for she Certainly is not 

* Again!' she says, in an extremely 
wakeful voice, rising out of her influenza 
and her wraps, and sitting up erect and 


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Second Thoughts. 255 

awful ; ' this is unaccountable ! Go and tell 
Dr. Burnet that I must beg he will come 

The man vanishes, and his mistress and 
Gillian remain silently listening, watchful 
and attentive for the result of his mission. 
Apparently, however, there is none. He 
does not return, nor does Burnet appear — 
in fact nothing happens. After ten minutes 
has passed : 

* Would you be so good as to ring the 
bell ?' says the elder woman. 

The bell is within reach of her own 
hand, and at a considerable distance from 
the girl ; but this does not appear to occur 
to her, though it does to Gillian. When 
the servant answers it : 

* Did you give my message ?' asks Miss 
Burnet, severely. 


' What did Dr. Burnet say .>' 

* He did not say anything, 'm.' 


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256 Second Thoughts. 

' Humph !* 

After a moment s pause, in a tone of 
alert suspicion : 

* Has he ordered fresh tea to be made 
for himself ?* 

* No, 'm; 

* Humph ! that will do/ 

Again there is silence, though not now 
a watchful one, for nothing can any longer 
be expected to occur. Gillian takes up a 
book, and for half an hour neither speaks. 
It is the stranger who first breaks into the 
drowsy stillness : 

* Dr. Burnet has had no tea/ she says, 
with a tinge of indignation in her fresh 

* It will not kill him to go without !' 
replies his sister, brutally ; and having by 
this time finished her own cup in leisurely 
sips, and, as a matter of course, requested 
Gillian to rise and deposit it on the tea- 
table for her, she re-arranges her muffler 



Second Thoughts. 257 

round her head, and disposes her whole 
person to deliberate slumber. 

So sought, it is not long in being won. 
Of this fact, Gillian is not long in becoming 
aware, by the cessation of a sniff, to which 
most of Miss Burnet's waking moments 
are in thrall — a sniff, not of temper or 
pride, but simply of habit, and which is to 
her an occupation. It is a loud sniff, and 
recurs with the regularity of a clock's tick. 
However, it is stilled now ; and Gillian, 
since there is no longer anyone to be taken 
in by the farce of her reading, lays down 
her book. 

From the selfish elderly figure slumber- 
ously stretched in the full fire-warmth to 
the still hissing kettle ; from the kettle 
back to the elderly figure, her glance 
wanders uncertainly. 

At length, ' It must not be !* she says 
articulately, though under her breath ; * it 

VOL. I. 17 


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258 Second Thoughts. 

is monstrous that I should come between 
him and the necessaries of life/ 

As she so speaks, with tragic exaggera- 
tion, she rises, and, her gown being of a 
soft clinging stuff that makes no noise in 
moving, she walks towards the door ; and 
opening it cautiously, and shutting it still 
more cautiously behind her, she finds 
herself on the landing. Gillian has 
embraced a great resolution. She knows 
that if it is not carried out in this very 
moment of its conception, it never will be. 
So she runs with quick light feet down- 
stairs ; and finding her way a little 
uncertainly about the still unknown house, 
knocks at a door, which has been pointed 
out to her as that of the doctor s study 
and consulting -room. Her light knock 
is instantly answered by a prompt * Come 
in !' But her treacherous courage is already 
off at full gallop ; and the very sound of 
that voice which gives her permission to 


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Second Thoughts. 259 

enter, deprives her of the power to avail 
herself of that permission. She stands 
vacillating, reddening, trembling under the 
gas-light, with more than half a mind to 
flee even now, and leave that knock for 
ever unaccounted for. But it is too 
late. The door has opened from the 
inside, and the master of the house stands 
expectant before her. 

* What is it ?' he says ; then with a 
sudden change from his everyday business 
tone to one of exceeding unbelieving 
surprise, ' Miss Latimer !' 

The astonishment of the key in which 
he speaks makes her feel hotly the irregu- 
larity of her own impulsive action, and 
deprives her for the moment of the power 
of speech. 

* Pray come in ! pray sit down !' he says 
with a gesture of civil invitation, while his 
voice tries to exchange its inflection of 
startled inquiry for that one of colourless 

17 — 2 

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26o Second Thoughts. 

politeness which he seems to keep and 
bring out for her sole use. 

'Thank you, no!' she answers, still 
hovering uneasily on the threshold. ' I 
shall not detain you a minute.' 

But as even now she does not at once 
explain why she is detaining him at all, he 
tries to help her. 

' Can I be of any use to you ?* he asks 
civilly. ' Is there anything I can do for 
you ?' 

She must answer, and so she feels. 

*You — you have had no tea,' she says 
hesitatingly, while her grey eyes stray over 
his shoulder into the interior of the room 
beyond — the room whose walls have heard 
so many sick voices tell their painful tales 
— stray over the substantial writing-table, 
the cheerful fire, the open books that tell 
of peaceable study. 

* Have I not ?* he says carelessly ; the 
surprise coming back unavoidably with a 


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Second Thoughts. 261 

rush, at this most unexpected proof of her 
solicitude for his comfort. * No, by-the- 
bye, I have not, but it is not of the least 

His sincere indifference on the subject, 
and his^ still expectant attitude, as if she 
must have something else to say, make her 
feel more acutely than before the foolish 
officiousness of her own mission, and again 
she is awkwardly dumb. 

* I am afraid that I see how it is,' he 
says ; a look of enlightenment, and at the 
same time annoyance, flashing across his 
face. * It is my sister's doing ; you must 
really not allow her to trespass on your 
good-nature, and send you on her 

' You are mistaken,' she cries hastily ; 
* Miss Burnet is asleep. I came of my 
own accord.' 

' Indeed !' Still with that same civil air 
of awaiting an explanation. 


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262 Second Thoughts. 

' I came to say/ looking ner\^oiisly 
away from him, ' that I do not mean — 
that I do not wish — that I have no desire 
to deprive you of the common comforts of 

Perhaps it is the gas-light, which a 
sudden draught makes flicker, that gives 
the impression as if a quick ray of humour 
lit up into laughter his serious eyes. 

' But I assure you that you do nothing 
of the kind/ 

* It is impossible — you will understand 
that it cannot be — that the idea is insup- 
portable to me,' she says, struggling to 
regain her self-possession, and to speak 
with coherence and dignity, *that I 
should be the means of excluding you from 
— of robbing you of the use of — your 
own drawing-room/ 

'It is no privation ; I am very happy 

There is a ring of such unaffected truth 


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Second Thoughts. 263 

in his voice ; and his room, as she 
snatchily catches glimpses of it over his 
shoulder, looks so much less heavily gaudy 
and dully pompous than the drawing-room, 
that she must fain accept the humiliating 
conviction that he is quite sincere. 

* I understood/ she says in a mortified 
tone — * I was told — that hitherto — previous 
to my arrival — you always spent your 
evenings upstairs/ 

He shrugs slightly. 

* Simply because my sister likes a com- 
panion, and in you she now has one.' 

There is a moment's silence. 

' At all events,' says Gillian, speaking 
with an effort, and making an attempt to 
recover something of her old habitual tone 
of superior commanding good sense — *at 
all events, it is best to be on the safe side. 
In order to simplify matters, I shall for 
the future spend my evenings in my own 
room — the sitting-room that you have 


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264 Second Thoughts. 

been so good as to place at my dis- 

As she draws up her long neck at the 
end of this stately sentence, she looks for a 
moment almost like the lofty Gillian who 
had curtly asked him his business on that 
snowy morning at Marlowe. 

' I must beg you will do nothing so 
absurd !' he answers tartly, declining sud- 
denly from his formal courtesy into brusque 
ill-humour ; then, before she is ready with 
a rejoinder, he goes on, throwing a short 
vexed look at her, and then turning his eyes 
away.. *Why do you insist on our re- 
opening the old subject ? Was not it 
agreed upon between us — was not it 
definitively settled before you came here, 
that, in order to make our impossible 
position as little difficult as might be, we 
would sedulously avoid all opportunities of 
being brought into unnecessary contact ? 
Why, in Heaven's name, before two days 


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Second Thoughts. 265 

are over, should we try to . upset an 
arrangement which is the only one that, 
under the circumstances, common-sense 
could possibly dictate ?* 

She shakes her head a little obstinately, 
unconvinced ; and regaining her self- 
possession in proportion as he loses his, 
she says gently but resolutely : 

* It is illogical that because a person has 
done you one injury, she should be com- 
pelled to do you another. Because my 
society has been unhappily forced upon you 
by circumstances, must I be obliged to 
feel that I am disturbing the current of 
your daily life, upsetting habits that have 
probably been those of years ?' 

It is always difficult to her to look at 
him ; but as she finishes she lifts the fair 
stars of her grey eyes modestly and 
persuasively to his. 

*They are nothing of the kind!' he 
answers snappishly ; * you are labouring 


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266 Second Thoughts, 

under an entire misapprehension! Pray 
let me repeat to you what I said at the 
outset, / am very happy here! 

There is so much emphasis, and at the 
same time temper, in his manner of pro- 
nouncing these last words, that she must 
needs see that her cause is lost, and that 
further argument would be only lowering 
her own dignity without getting any nearer 
to her goal. So she bows her head, a 
little crestfallenly, and says formally : 

* Then I must only apologise for having 
uselessly detained you/ 

She turns, and flits away from him. As 
she passes up the stairs : 

* He would have been a good friend,' 
she says, sighing, * but he is an inveterate 
enemy !* 

She finds the drawing-room in exactly 
the same state as when she left it — the 
kettle still hissing, and cat, parrot, and 
lady still warmly wrapped in sleep. It is a 


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Second Thoughts, 267 

cold night, and her unsuccessful trip has 
perhaps chilled her body as well as her 
spirit ; so she kneels down on the rug by 
the side of the fire, and rests her forehead 
dispiritedly against the mottled marble of 
the florid chimney-piece. She does not 
stir or change her position, even when 
after a while the door is heard to open. 
Of course it is the butler come to take 
away the tea-things. It is not till she 
hears Miss Burnet's voice awake, and 
grimly triumphant, that she looks up. 

* Oh ! it is you, is it } I thought that 
sooner or later we should starve you out.' 

^And you were right,' replies a com- 
posed voice, that yet to a fine ear has a 
shade of consciousness in it. 

* Do not let us have any such nonsense 
again !' rejoins she brusquely, and so turns 
over on the other side, and resumes her 
scarcely interrupted slumber. 

Gillian has lifted her dejected brow from 


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268 Second Thoughts. 

its cold resting-place, and looks, pleasur- 
ably startled, over her own shoulder at 
the decorous figure, who is tranquilly 
drawing up a chair to the table, and 
arranging upon it the books that he has 
brought up under his arm. But no 
answering look gratifies her by estab- 
lishing a connection between her own 
officious visit and this unexpected advent. 

After a few moments, she rises noise- 
lessly from her knees, and taking up her 
neglected novel, establishes herself quietly 
not far from him, and within the radius of 
light thrown by the reading-lamp. He 
never looks up, or moves an eye-lid. 
It would have been easier to speak if 
she could have caught his eye ; but 
whether or not, she will do so. 

* Thank you,* she says in a low voice, 
shy, yet conciliating. ' I am grateful to 

He does not respond, except by a 


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Second Thoughts. 269 

formal movement of the head in stiff 
acknowledgment, nor has she again the 
courage to infringe upon so resolved a 


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THE February days, slowly lengthening 
as they go, march coldly on, and 
coldly and dully marches with them 
Gillian Latimer's life. Her deep mourn- 
ing for the present forbids her carrying 
into and perhaps losing in society the long 
ennui that gnaws her. To be transplanted 
without any intermediate stage of pre- 
paration or hardening off, from a life so 
full and bustling as to afford few and 
small breathing-times — a life in which she 
has been used to being pulled in a dozen 
directions at a time — to one of stagnant 


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Second Thoughts. 271 

leisure, in which she is never pulled in 
any direction at all, would be a severe 
trial for a temper less commanding, a\ 
disposition less active than hers. It is not J 
at once that she fully realises that she is 
living in a house where no one asks her 
advice, or would take it did she offer it ; 
where no servants look to her for orders ; 
where she has no earthly business to 
exhort, admonish, or rebuke any living 
soul ; where no special hour of any day 
calls for any special duty ; where the 
wheels would run and the pulleys work 
quite as well and smoothly, were she to stay 
in bed all day. Of actual subject of com- 
plaint she has certainly none. Her own 
sitting-room, well lit, well warmed, 
luxurious, awaits whatever guests it may 
please her to receive. Her brougham 
stands always at her own orders ; as to 
her comings and goings none inquire, nor 
does anyone manifest the least curiosity 


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272 Second Thoughts. 

about them. In justice to Miss Burnet 
It must be said that she feels none. ' I 
go my way ; you go yours !' she had said 
in the first hour of their acquaintance, and 
to this motto she rigorously keeps. 

As to Burnet himself, if, in their com- 
pelled meetings — the silent breakfasts, the 
hasty luncheons, the short dinners — her 
relation towards him is altering, it is so 
imperceptiBIyThat sheTiSrselfTSTW^ aware 
of it. It is true that there are variations 
in his demeanour towards her, as in his 
temper, such as must always occur in the 
case of a sensitively organised, overworked 
man ; little spurts of irritability, welcome 
if only as a change, varying the uniformity 
of his conscientious chill politeness. Even 
the letters from home, to which she had 
looked as her mainstay and chief prop 
in her banishment, have ceased to afford 
her unmixed comfort. There is a depre- 
cation in the tone of her uncle's, and a 


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Second Thoughts. 273 

growing self-assertiveness in those of Jane, 
that causes her serious disquiet. Nor 
does the fact that this state of things is 
but transitional, that on the ist of August 
her bands will be loosed, materially cheer 
her. Even the nightly putting a pen- 
stroke through one of the days that lie 
between her and her deliverance in the 
big almanack on her wall, does not very 
sensibly exhilarate her. 

Ten days have passed since her visit to 
Suffolk Street, and every day, as the 
luncheon-hour has been safely tided over, 
she has drawn a long breath of relief at 
the non-appearance of the Tarltons. The 
fear of the fulfilment of Sophia's threat is 
daily growing fainter in her mind, when 
one morning, as she is sitting in her own 
room, following with listless eyes the 
crawling cabs and furious butchers* carts in 
the streets, and reading with the slack 
attention of a person who is giving but a 

VOL. I. 18 


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274 Second Thoughts. 

very small portion of herself into her 
author s hands, the door opens, and two 
furry figures fly in ; two voices, confident 
of being welcome, break into voluble 
greetings ; two cheeks freshened by the 
sharp wind lay themselves against hers ; 
two neatly gloved right hands press hers 
in an effusive clasp. 

* You must have given us up !' ' You 
must have begun to despair of us!' cry 
they in a breath. 

* No, I did not,' replies Gillian, stifling 
a slight- sigh, and abandoning herself 
a little passively to her friends' endear- 
ments. * I knew you would come.' 

* We should not be likely to desert you 
noWy of all times!' says the younger girl, 
affectionately stroking the satiny back of 
one of Gillian's hands, of which she has 
taken possession. 

* It would be inhuman not to stand by 
you now P says the elder, with a reassur- 


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Second Thoughts. 275 

ing squeeze to the fingers of the other, 
which has fallen a helpless prey to her. 

*What a pretty room!' cries Anne, 
jumping up, after her tenderness has been 
satisfied by a few minutes* fondling. 
* Your own taste, of course 1 From your 
description of him, one would hardly 
suspect it of being his* — with a laugh. 
' Is this your bedroom ?* peeping inquisi- 
tively through the half-open door : ' may 
I see that too ?* 

* Anne would come,* says Sophia, lower- 
ing her voice a little, as her sister's figure 
disappears into the interior ; * I tried to 
dissuade her, but you know she never 
knows when she is de trop. What is that ?* 
pricking up her ears, as the luncheon-bell 
rings quick and loud through the house. 

* I think — I suppose — I believe — that 
it is luncheon !* answers Gillian, reluc- 

* Impossible !* rejoins Sophia, taking out 


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276 Second Thoughts. 

her watch, and looking at it ; * it is only 
just one o clock, and you certainly told me 
that you lunched at two/ 

* Did I ? I — I think not ; you — you 
must have misunderstood me !* 

* Then we must be going, I imagine,' 
says Sophia, not, however, offering to 
move. * I suppose that you are not on 
such terms as to be able to ask us to stay 
luncheon ?' 

* Certainly not !* replies Gillian, hastily, 
but with eager decision ; * I could not 
think of taking such a liberty !* 

* How hard ! how very odd !* says Miss 
Tarlton, with a mortified look, begin- 
ning, with extreme slowness, to rearrange 
her veil, while Gillian fidgetily watches 

While both are thus employed, there 
comes a knock at the door, followed by a 
servant s voice : 

* If you please, 'm, Miss Burnet bids me 


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Second Thoughts. 277 

say she hopes that you will be able to 
persuade the ladies to stay luncheon/ 

Sophia's countenance brightens, and she 
drops her veil. 

* Will you stay ?* asks Gillian, trying to 
make her tone as colourless as possible, 
and to keep out of it, as well as she may, 
her own bias in the matter. 

* Of course we will !' replies Sophia, 
staunchly ; * it would be very odd if we 
could not do such a little thing as that for 

Anne says nothing. She only makes 
another fond lunge at Gillian's hand, 
which, however, she this time succeeds in 
secreting among the folds of her black 
gown, and then all go downstairs. They 
find Miss Burnet, who never waits for 
anything or anybody, already seated, and 
eating. Miss Burnet would sit down to 
her luncheon at one o'clock were a con- 
flagration raging, or an earthquake shock- 


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278 Second Thoughts, 

ing in the very house, merely sending 
down peremptory orders to it by the 
butler to stop. But the host's place is 
vacant. A faint hope that he may be out 
— that some opportune sick person may 
have demanded his presence, flits through 
his ward's mind ; and for a few moments 
she has the malicious pleasure of covertly 
watching Sophia s inquisitive eyes uneasily 
travelling towards the door. 

But it is not for long that this 
gratification is destined to last. Before 
it has occurred to his sister to com- 
ment on his absence he is here amongst 
them, welcoming his guests with grave 
smile and courteous eyes, and holding 
out to them in gracious greeting that 
right hand that hers has never touched. 

At his advent there is a moment's 
silence, during which Gillian cannot lift 
her drooped eyes for very shame ; so well 
does she know what, at least in the case 


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Second Thoughts. 279 

of her two friends, is causing it. * Adven- 
turer !* * Ogre r * Rogue !* all the ugly- 
names that, on her own showing, they 
have heaped upon him, march in unhand- 
some procession before her inner eye ; and 
as they do, she involuntarily glances 
remorsefully up at him, in order to pain 
herself by picturing the effect that after 
such an introduction the real man must 
be producing on unprejudiced minds and 

* We have met before, I think, though 
no doubt you do not remember it,' says 
Sophia in her agreeable woman-of-the- 
world voice, that yet to Gillian's ear keeps 
a shade of the astonishment that for one 
moment had struck even her voluble 
tongue into dumbness. 

For an instant he looks inquiringly at 
her; then, as a flash of recognition darts 
into his keen bright eyes : 

' I remember perfectly,' he answers. 


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28o Second Thoughts. 

* You were sitting on the floor, spinning a 
large top ; I think you were all spinning 

* Which we struggled convulsively to 
conceal when you were announced/ replies 
Sophia, laughing. * What a day it was ! we 
heard afterwards that in some places in 
the drifts the snow was six feet deep/ 

* It was rather bad/ he says shortly ; 
then, as if in a hurry to give a more 
general character to the conversation, asks 
a trite question as to whether they as a 
rule have a good deal of snow in their part 
of the world. She answers * Yes * or 

* No/ as the case may be ; and then they 
drift easily off into a brisk and amicable 
duet, which lasts as long as luncheon. 

Gillian, seated on the other side of the 
table, and during most of the repast a 
victim to Anne's sotto voce confidences, 
which run chiefly upon her parents' wars, 
her sister's ill-nature, and her own flirta- 


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Second Thoughts. 281 

tions, cannot help lending more than half 
an ear to the others' dialogue. Its fluency 
makes her gasp. Her own conversations 
with her guardian are on both sides a 
series of feverish efforts to hinder the ball 
from dropping, to keep that silence which 
is always threatening them from super- 

Here there is not a pause or a break in 
the flow of light yet not unintelligent talk : 
neither of them seems to have the least 
difficulty in looking into the other s face ; 
several times they have laughed in mirth- 
ful concert. Sophia forgets to finish her 
jelly, and Burnet forgets that the clock 
has struck half-past one, until austerely 
advised by his sister that he will be late at 
the hospital. Even then he lingers to 
hear the end of a sprightly anecdote, and 
finally departs with expressions of regret 
and a cordial handshake. 

* Do not you hate Sophia when she is 


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282 Second Thoughts. 

intelligent ?' whispers Anne, stealing her 
hand into Gillian's arm as they leave the 
room. * / do ; and one knows so well that 
it is all got up for the occasion !' 

Gillian^s only answer is a somewhat 
lenient ' Hush T 

* Anne, I cannot have you monopolising 
Gillian,' cries Sophia in a tone of elated 
affection, as they reach the privacy of Miss 
Latimer s sitting-room. * My dear child !' 
— throwing herself into a sofa-corner, and 
holding up both hands — * I am dumb ! you 
must have been playing a practical joke 
upon us ! such a thorough gentleman !' 

' Did I ever say that he was not a 
gentleman ?' cries Gillian, in passionate 
scarlet hurry. *You put words into my 

* I have never had any objection to 
professional men as such,* continues Sophia, 
in a tone of dispassionate good sense ; 
'they have always something interesting 


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Second Thoughts. 283 

to tell one, and mostly know how to pre- 
sent their knowledge agreeably. For my 
own part, I far prefer them to the empty- 
headed flaneurs that one meets with 
tiresome iteration in our own walk of 

* Come, I do not think that you need 
complain of them,* says Anne, in a signi- 
ficant tone; *they do not trouble you 

Sophia has far too much spirit not to 
retort suitably, and there follows a brisk 
passage of arms, during which, employing 
that nice accuracy in touching each other | 
on the raw which a lifelong intimacy 
gives, neither girl fails to remind the 
other of incidents in her past history 
which she would perhaps have as soon 
had forgotten. At the end of their 
skirmish they resume their wraps, not at 
all the worse for it, and prepare to take 


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284 Second Thoughts, 

* Now that the ice is broken,' says 
Sophia, in cheerful farewell, * you will see 
me often. You heard that I was invited ' — 
playfully — *well, I assure you that I mean 
to avail myself of the invitation.' 

* You will have her here again to-morrow 
and the day after,' says Anne in a whisper, 
lingering behind her sister as the latter 
turns to go ; * she is so unused to a little 
attention, that it quite upsets her.' 


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MORE days pass ; some foggy, some 
feebly shining, but none bringing 
with them much change in the com- 
plexion of Gillian's life. The clocks tick 
it monotonously away, and the almanack's 
erasures steadily grow. 

Meanwhile, to neither of her house- 
mates can she flatter herself that she is 
growing in the least degree essential, or 
even humbly useful. She has indeed, 
faithful to the traditions of her past, made 
several sincere attempts to minister to, and 
at the same time improve, Miss Burnet; 


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286 Second Thoughts. 

but her efforts have been rebutted by the 
unsparing directness with which that lady 
apparently simplifies her course through 

* You are very good/ she says drily ; 
* but, to tell you the honest truth, I am not 
very fond of having anyone fussing after 

Neither, it seems, does Miss Burnet's 
brother want her to be fussing after him ; 
but at that, to do her justice, she makes no 
attempt. It is true that he has ceased to 
struggle with Fate and his sister, as to the 
disposition of his evenings ; and when not 
— as he very often is — professionally ab- 
sent, makes his appearance as regularly as 
the tea-table, with his books under his arm. 
But, on the whole, they were almost as 
well without him: at least, to an outsider 
it would seem so, for to the sociability of 
the evening he contributes nothing but his 
presence, remaining immersed in his book 


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Second Thoughts, 287 

from the moment of his appearance, until 
the moment when Gillian's rising tells him 
that it is time to rise too, and solemnly 
present her with her candle. In fact, the 
grey parrot — the only great talker in the 
house — being by this time asleep, humped 
and fluffy in his ring, silence reigns undis- 

One evening, things are thus taking their 
usual unexciting course. Burnet by the 
table, book and elbows resting on it, hands 
thrust in his hair and meeting on his fore- 
head, to make a penthouse for his eyes — a 
student so determined, that no one who 
was not utterly void of tact would think 
of disturbing him ; Gillian at the table too, 
over against him, fingering a pile of tracts 
and papers, and with r^her more anima" 
tion and less listlessness in air and feature 
than has of late been the case with her ; 
Miss Burnet in her usual situation of 
supreme warmth and self-indulgent sloths 


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2 88 Second Thoughts. 

She is, however, not asleep, as her sniff 
testifies. In the complete stillness, Gillian 
catches herself waiting for and fidgetily 
expecting its recurrence. Her wakeful- 
ness is further evidenced by her presently 
rising, and, without any observation to 
either of her companions, making for the 

* You are going T says Burnet, lifting 
his eyes, and speaking in a tone of sur- 
prised interrogation. 

' Apparently T she answers drily. 

* Not to bed ?' 
' Yes, to bed !' 

* But it is only half-past nine !' with an 
expostulatory glance at the clock. 

* Whether it is half-past nine, or half- 
past nineteen, I am going to bed !' replies 
she doggedly, tying her woollen shawl 
under her chin. 

* You are not ill, I hope ?* says Gillian 


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Second Thoughts. 289 

* Thank you, not at all/ 

* You had better stay half an hour 
longer/ says Burnet, with some eagerness, 
following her, and laying his hand per- 
suasively on her shoulder ; * it will only be 
ten o'clock then/ 

' I am sorry to disoblige you,' returns 
she, opening the door, * but I wish to go 
to bed/ 

He shrugs good-humouredly, and sits 
down again. 

For a moment Gillian — she, too, has 
risen — remains standing irresolutely. Is 
she to be packed off to bed too, like a 
child, at 9*30, because a selfish old woman 
declines to remain and chaperon her .'^ 
Does he expect it of her } Let him 
expect then. If he dislikes her society, 
it lies with him to abandon it. So she, 
too, reseats herself. For some moments 
entire silence, unbroken now even by 
a sniff. With the exception of the 

VOL. I. 19 

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290 Second Thoughts, 

.cessation of that tiresome sound, and of 
the emptiness of the arm-chair, anyone 
would say that the situation was entirely 
unchanged. But in the minds of the two 
dumb actors in it, it has undergone an 
entire transformation. The removal of 
that supine, selfish figure has introduced 
into their relations an element of gine 
and awkwardness, against which each 
separately, and unsuspected by the other, 
is vainly struggling. Gillian has uninten- 
tionally imitated her companion's attitude ; 
has put her elbows also on the table, 
and made a penthouse also of her hands, 
and under this penthouse her thoughts 
are running riot. Supposing that an 
absolute stranger to them and to their 
history were to be suddenly dropped 
into this peaceful milieu ; to what conclu- 
sions would he naturally come ? He 
would see two people — two young people. 
Involuntarily she snatches a peep at him 


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Second Thoughts. 291 

through her fingers to decide whether a- 
stranger would describe him as young 
(in point of fact, twenty good^ years stretch 
between him and his elderly half-sister) — 
yes, two fairly young people, seated alone, 
and within a yard of each other ; the same 
good fire reddening the left cheek of the 
one, and the right cheek of the other ; the 
same tall Duplex lamp flooding the pages 
on which their studious eyes are bent. To 
what conclusion must he come but that 
only the nearest and dearest of, kinships, 
the closest and sweetest of human 
intimacies, could justify and explain this 
wordless proximity ? Strangers, acquaint- 
ances, when thrown together, must 
politely talk ; brother and sister, husband 
and wife, may be confidently, blessedly 

To make sure of the impression that the 
hypothetical stranger would receive, she 
again, without intending it, brings her 

19 — 2 

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292 Second Thoughts, 

eyes, protected by her loosely-clasped 
fingers, to bear upon him ; and, lost in 
her idle speculations, forgets to turn them 

Whether there is more intensity in her 
look than she is aware of, a mesmeric 
force that he feels even through his down- 
cast eyelids — however that may be, he 
suddenly, and before she has time to avert 
her glance, looks up and catches her in 
the act. To her embarrassed fancy there 
is an impatient inquiry — ^a vexed asking 
for the explanation of her undesired 
scrutiny in his lifted eyes. 

* I — I — beg your pardon,' she says con- 
fusedly. ' I — I must apologise, but I was 
wondering why you put your fingers in 
your ears just now.' 

This is not exactly true, for although 
the fact to which she alludes had excited 
her surprised notice some half an hour 
ago, it was certainly not the proximate 


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Second Thoughts. 293 

cause of her observations. Apparently 
her confusion is catching. 

* Did I ?' he says, in an alarmed voice. 
* Did you notice it ? Did she notice it, do 
you think ?' with a slight movement of 
the head towards the chair lately occupied 
by his sister. 

* I should say not,' replies Gillian, 
wondering. * She was looking at the fire 
the whole time.' 

'It is a bad habit,' he says, in an 
ashamed tone. * I must break myself of 

* It was an unnecessary precaution,' 
rejoins Gillian, with an air of offended 
dignity. * Our conversation would not 
have disturbed you ; neither of us had 
uttered a word for the best part of an 

* You are mistaken !' he cries hastily. 
' It had nothing to say to you ; how 
could you imagine such a thing ? The 


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294 Second Thoughts. 

more you talk, the better I am pleased ; 
but the fact is,' speaking slowly and a 
little sheepishly, * my poor sister has a 
trick — a way of sniffing, I do not know 
whether you have noticed it — it is a mere 
nothing — but I am ashamed to say it 
fidgets me intensely if I am reading any- 
thing that requires any closeness of 
attention. I find I cannot concentrate my 
thoughts ; I keep listening and waiting for 
the recurrence of that unlucky sniff/ 

* Do you ?' cries Gillian, interrupting 
him eagerly, her whole face lit up, and 
her young eyes dancing in the firelight 
with lively sympathy. * I am so glad ! so 

do ir 

They both laugh low and suppressedly, 
as if she of whom they thus treasonably 
speak were still within ear-shot ; their 
voices, too, have dropped to a slightly 
lower key, and they have edged their 
chairs a very little nearer each other. 


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Second Thoughts. 295 

* Do you ?* says Burnet, merriment and 
genuine interest in look and tone. Then^ 
all of a sudden, a change, the usual change, 
comes over him ; it is as if he had recol- 
lected himself. He pushes back his chair 
again, as though a cold wind had crept 
into the room, and blown them apart. 
* I must thank you,' he says, in his 
ordinary manner, *for having told me of 
a foolish habit ; I must try to correct 
myself of it.' 

Gillian does not answer. Thus thrown 
back upon herself in her first moment of 
dpanchement, she feels exceedingly blank. 
Perhaps the expression of this sudden 
change and decline from her momentary 
harmless gaiety is written on her face, 
for apparently some compunction prompts 
him again to address her. 

*You are busy,' he says, with a rather 
clumsy attempt to find a remark, 
glancing at the halfpenny tracts which 


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296 Second Thoughts. 

her long white fingers are slowly turning 

* They are temperance tracts/ she 
answers, pushing two or three across 
the table to him. * I do not know 
whether you are interested in the move- 

He takes them up and glances at their 
titles. * The Losings Bank/ * Drink ; 
what it costs/ * Put on the Break, 

* But — but I do not understand/ he 
says, in a puzzled voice ; * surely you are 
not reading these for your own amuse- 
ment !' 

A slight smile hovers about her fresh 

* No,' she answers ; * I am looking them 
over, in order to choose the most suitable 
for reading aloud.' 

* Reading aloud ! to whom "i' in a still 
more mystified tone, his thoughts jumping 


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Second Thoughts. 297 

from himself to his sister — her, in his 
mind, only possible audience — and back 

She smiles once more, a little superior, 
leaning back in her chair. 

'It is a work that I am well used 
to,* she answers indirectly ; * at least 
I ought to be ; I have had plenty of 

He is still stupidly looking at her, with 
a total want of comprehension. 

* I have always,' she says, folding her 
round arms in -'her lap, and speaking 
didactically, * thought it the movement 
par excellence of the age ; one that it is 
every one's bounden duty to forward as 
much as in them lies. I was determined 
to do my very utmost for it at Marlowe. 
We had a Temperance Room, open every 
market-day, to lure the farmers from the 
public-houses, and which my cousins and 
I always superintended personally; and 


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298 Second Thoughts. 

on Sunday evenings I held a class of 
confirmed drunkards. From fifteen to 
twenty young men attended it ; I held 
it all the winter months, and during the 
whole time not one relapsed ! No doubt/ 
with a plaintive declension from her lofty 
tone, and a tearful droop of the corners 
of her mouth — * no doubt they have all 
relapsed nowF 

To this speech — the largest since the 
days of their warfare that she has ever 
addressed him — Burnet listens humbly 
and attentively, but at the end he still 
looks puzzled. 

* But — but why now ? * he says in- 
quiringly ; ' you have no temperance class 
now ?' 

* Not at this very moment,' she answers, 
* but,' firmly, * it is a want that I am 
on the very point of supplying; there is 
no reason why the work should not go 
on, though the scene is changed T Then, 


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Second Thoughts. 299 

seeing him look still keenly interrogative, 
she continues : * Through the agency of 
a friend, who works in connection with a 
Sisterhood down at Westminster, I have 
hired a room in Little Pye Street, and 
mean to hold a class for young men 
there every Sunday evening, at eight 
o'clock, as I did at home/ She stops a 
moment to take breath, and then, meeting 
with no interruption, she sails along again 
on the waves of complacent narrative: 
*We have already the promise of three, 
all inveterate drunkards and bad charac- 
ters ; that, of course, is only a nucleus, 
a beginning, but it will no doubt lead to 
better things !' 

She comes to a pause, and it is now 
evident why he has not hitherto broken in 
upon her speech. She has taken away 
his breath. 

* Little Pye Street ! — inveterate drunk- 
ards !— eight o'clock !' he echoes, in a 


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300 Second Thoughts. 

succession of gasps. *Are you dream- 
ing ?' 

' Dreaming !' she repeats in an offended 
tone, thus suddenly awaked from her 
vision of triumphant philanthropy, and 
eying him coldly ; * is it possible that you 
are not in sympathy with my plans ?' 

' Is it possible/ retorts he, hotly, * that 
you are so ignorant of the world as to 
imagine that I could allow you — that it is 
within the bounds of possibility that you 
should be permitted to hazard yourself at 
that time of night among the roughs of 
Westminster ?' 

At the almost compassionate contempt 
for her lack of common-sense conveyed 
in his tone, she bites her lips, paling a 

* I am to understand then,' she says in 
a constrained and haughty voice, * that you 
mean to oppose me }' 

' Undoubtedly,' he replies emphatically. 


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Second Thoughts, 301 

* If through your want of knowledge and 
experience you are bent on exposing 
yourself to certain insult and probable 
danger, it is my bounden duty to prevent 

As he speaks, his steady eyes meet hers ; 
and there is something in their resolved 
expression that makes her proud spirit 

* I should have thought,' she says, in- 
stantly taking her stand with great 
presence of mind on very high ground, 

* that, in a case of materially benefiting 
one s fellow-creatures, one should not allow 
considerations of mere personal ease and 
comfort to intrude ; though even taking 
your own view, I think' — with a slightly 
sarcastic expression — 'that you are un- 
necessarily alarmed. My friend has worked 
in Westminster for several years without 
meeting with any of the inconveniences 
you so needlessly apprehend for me !' 


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302 Second Thoughts. 

He raises his eyebrows slightly. 

* Indeed ! And may I ask, is she a lady 
of somewhat your age and appearance ?' 

Her proud eyes droop. 

* No— 0—0/ she answers reluctantly ; 
•she is fifty, and — and — slightly hump- 
backed ; but that is not the question !* 

* I think it is very much the question !' 
he answers drily. 

Her nostrils quiver. 

* Of course I cannot tell whether you 
will admit him to be a good judge ; but 
I must let you know that my uncle, Mr. 
Marlowe, always thoroughly approved of 
my efforts at home — promoted and encou- 
raged my class in every possible way.' 

* The parallel between the two cases is 
so complete,' he rejoins ironically, * between 
the whole conditions and components of 
your class at home, and that which you 
wish to gather haphazard from the scum 
of Westminster.' 


by Google 

Second Thoughts. 303 

'Is it possible/ she says, her anger 
gathering volume at each fresh proof of 
how little impression her rhetoric makes, 

* that you think this an adequate mode of 
treating such a subject ? Is it possible that 
you think that in such a matter I can 
consent to be contemptuously laughed 
down ?' 

* Excuse me, I am not laughing ; and I 
see nothing to be contemptuous about/ 

* Perhaps you are not aware of it,' she 
says, finally losing her temper, which has 
been for some minutes escaping from her 
control ; * perhaps your manner is more 
galling than you are yourself aware of/ 

He bows his head. 

* Perhaps ; if it is so, I apologise/ 

* Although,' she continues, her voice 
trembling more and more, and brighter 
sparks darting from her angry eyes — 

* although I see with astonishment that you 
are entirely out of sympathy with my aims, 


by Google 

304 Second Thoughts. 

that the object I have in view fails to excite 
the faintest interest in your mind, yet I 
should have thought that a man like you, 
who must know the value and blessedness 
of work, might guess what a galling load 
the compelled idleness that you so non- 
chalantly lay on me must be.' 

He is still sitting by the table, his dark 
head leant on his hand, and his eyes — 
tolerably calm, though once or twice a 
spark leaps from them too — attentively 
fixed upon hers, as if resolved to let her 
have her say out. 

* You are not just to me,' she continues 
tremulously ; * it is not in the nature of the 
case that you can be. You have always 
looked incredulous when I have alluded to 
my former usefulness ; but cannot even 
you,' with a fiery emphasis, and an accom- 
panying flash of indignant flame from her 
steel-coloured eyes, 'understand what it 
must be to a woman with an active head, 


by Google 

Second Thoughts. 305 

capable hands, and, God knows, a willing 
heart, to be kept in enforced idleness for 
six whole months of her life ; and, if she 
makes an effort to break from her bondage 
of sloth, to be sent back to it with a sneer 
and a smile ?* 

At last she pauses ; he waits a minute 
or two to be sure that she has quite 
finished ; then : 

* And is a class of Westminster drunk- 
ards the sole possible outlet from your 
bondage of sloth ?' he asks disagreeably. 

She throws up her wilful head. 

' I should have thought,' she says 
haughtily, *that it might have lain with 
me, at my age, to select what sphere of 
usefulness I chose. You once told me,* 
flashing another indignant look at him, 
*that the control you exercised over my 
actions would probably be purely nominal. 
When it comes to be tested by experience, 

VOL. I. 20 


by Google 

3o6 Second Thoughts. 

I see how much truth there was in that 

Whether this last thrust tells or not, she 
has no means of knowing, for his answer 
comes in a low guarded tone that may 
mean either that it has missed altogether, 
or else that it has gone too truly home. 

* I am compelled by the authority that, 
as you know, I reluctantly exercise over 
you, to hinder you from thrusting yourself 
into situations for which, by your age, 
position, and appearance, you are eminently 

' Is there any situation, I wonder,* she 
cries passionately, *for which you think I 
am not unsuited ?' 

' Till the first of August,' he continues 
steadily — they have both risen, and are 
facing each other — * my responsibility 
lasts ; on the second, you may, as you 
say, choose your own sphere of usefulness, 


by Google 

Second Thoughts. 307 

and I can assure you that you need dread 
no interference from me/ 

So saying he lights her candle, and 
handing it to her with a cold civil bow, 
puts an end to the argument. 



y. S. <Sr» S&ns. 


by Google 


by Google 


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